J.V. Seem's Reviews > The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
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's review
Sep 12, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: plays
Read from October 07, 2011 to April 21, 2012

Last night, I played my last performace in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.
What can I say? It's been... Weird.

Then again I've had a weird time, personally. First of all, due to a series of anxiety attacks, I had much trouble even being in this show. I was absent a few times at the start, and said to my director: «If you feel you have to replace me, do it.» A director needs actors he can depend on, and who can manage to show up for rehearsal. I was well prepared to back out. But he didn't want me to.

What's scared me through this process, is how much the role of Varya resembles myself. One only had to look at the facts; over the course of this project, we both lost our homes and we both lost our jobs. Stanislavski says that it's difficult to get into a body which is not one's own size, but no problems there, this time, it fit me too well.
At one of the first readings of the play, I read a line as I felt it, and the director exclaimed «...said the bitter woman!», and I thought, «Oh my god, I just totally exposed myself!», it so came from the heart.
In a way, she's been very easy to play, because I firmly understand where she comes from, and yet, I can almost say it's been an ordeal. I've had several episodes on and off stage, of a variety I haven't experienced before. BF, a seasoned actor, has always had plenty of these, where he gets so into his role, or into the story that he might start weeping as if on cue.
During the scene where Lopakhin reveals it's he who's bought the cherry orchard, I often started crying, due to my co-actor's brilliance, and unpolished rawness. I also once had an absolute breakdown during the proposal scene, also with Lopakhin. Both times I just got so deep into the story, that it almost became my own.

But I've developed a lot. The parts I've played before have been either absurd, or twodimensional caricatures for children's shows. This one had depth, it had many sides to it, which made it hard, but which also, unlike the others, had lots of room to let you grow. I don't think there's any doubt that I have.
And, as a side note, at the first reading, before we were assigned parts, this is the part I wished for, and I got it.
It's been an exploration, if anything.

On the down side, it hasn't been all fun and games.
It's been a strange collection of people in this cast. There's been drama and fighting and all-round bad moods. Some of the actors have been new in our company, some have experienced unrequited love, and even though BF several years ago swore his name'd never be on a cast list with some of those people ever again, there it was. And mine too.
BF Magnus claims I'm spoiled. I guess I am. I had such an amazing time when we played Oliver! in the summer of 2011; my life felt like it was just starting, it was an awesome cast who I adored, the show was fantastic and so much fun to play, and I had my love, then Mr. Bumble, at my side.
I was scared, before we started working onThe Cherry Orchard this fall, that it wouldn't be the same, but I just couldn't help be disappointed when my fears were confirmed. Without Magnus, who played my uncle Gaev, there, I think I'd have felt very much alone.
I spent the last hour before the premiere crying in the dressing room, just being sad, and also kind of having a guilty concience because I wasn't having tons of fun with this one.
However, I still regard it as a victory that I managed to complete this project and do my job at all. At the start, it didn't seem like I'd be able to. BF, a minute after the last performance: «I promised you, didn't I?»

Don't get me wrong. The play in itself is amazing. Our director chose to treat it as a comedy, as intended by the author (though not by all directors), resulting in a play where the sad and serious is constantly interrupted by the hilarious. In my opinion, a great balance. Had it been only one or the other, it wouldn't have been as believable, I think. It's a nod to life, that comedy and tragedy often walk hand in hand.

There were some great performances, too. BF a very pompous, loud and clueless Gaev, and awesome roles also in many of the others. Some were more caricatured, but those were the smaller parts anyway.

The show had amazing costumes by the same designer as on Oliver!, and set design by our director, who always insists on doing it himself. I had mixed feelings about the set. In itself, it was amazing, with a back wall silhouetting a cherry tree, but it was just very crudely painted. I got used to it, however!
The play had many sound effects, and lots of music. We used klezmer music, and it created an amazing backdrop for the show, I really loved that music, it was an awesome factor in setting the mood for audience and performers alike.
I had the choreography in this one, a dance of furniture, no less. The actors danced and twirled with tables and chairs (I told them to treat the objects as their lovers, and dance with them). It was pretty symbolic, as all the dancers disappeared off stage with all the furniture, leaving the stage empty, as the mansion and cherry orchard are emptied and torn down. My mother-in-law reported it made her cry.

I've made some new friendships this time around too, but whether we'll keep in touch now that this is over, I couldn't say.
It almost sounds like, when I talk about this production, that it's been a waste, but that's not true at all. It hasn't been great, but I have made new friends, I have learned a lot, I've been bravely way outside my comfort zone, and hope (and think) I've been able to establish myself as an actress with a wider range of abilities than before, hopefully creating possibilities for me in the future.
Even though I most certainly feel finished with this production, and am happy to have a break now (gleefully not sharing my man with everyone, and not never having time to be alone with him), I look forward to new projects, hopefully in more cheerful circumstances.

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