Anton Chekhov’s classic play “The Cherry Orchard,” adapted by Tom Stoppard and directed by Todd Lanker for Kansas City’s Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, is a piece that examines themes of social change. Although presented within the context of Russian aristocracy at the turn of the 20th century, it portrays a struggle for personal identity and self actualization that is still relevant in today’s society.
The play is framed around the months following the return of a landowner to her family estate, her reconciliation with a past tragedy, and the interactions between herself and her family and household as they fall on hard times.
Shelley Wyche fills the role of Luibov brilliantly. Her nuanced, emotional performance reflects a proud and strong figure that occasionally cracks, letting us see a glimmer of sadness and confusion within. The play features fine performances from its entire ensemble. Each capture the emotional intensity of the situation well, without letting the more comedic and lighter aspects of the play slip by.
While there is plenty to admire in the performances of the actors, there is something to be said about the costume and scenic design as well. Much of the grandiose estate is left to the audience’s imagination. What we do see, as staged by Lanker, paints broad strokes. There are many thoughtful and minute details to the settings, particularly in the second and third acts.
Although the play has been well adapted, with performances and production aspects lending a great deal to its accessibility, it still may be worth reading a little about the period and its social concerns before heading to the theater to fully appreciate what “The Cherry Orchard” has to offer.
“The Cherry Orchard” runs through Jan. 27 at the Warwick Theatre, 3927 Main St, Kansas City, MO 64111.
(Photo courtesy of MAT)