★★★★☆ - Delicious
Chekhov’s last play “The Cherry Orchard” is a classic theatre tragedy. It’s taught in high school theatre curriculum – or at least it used to be. So, what in the world would possess someone to take this (now) public domain work and make a mockery of it?
Well, because it’s funny. Instead of “The Cherry Ochard” we’ve got “Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard of the Living Dead.” Instead of the Russian Revolution, which dethroned Czar Nicholas, wreaking havoc on the countryside, we’ve got zombies.
As written and directed by Troy Heard, the script is full of groaners. But, for some reason, they’re funny anyway. It has as much to do with the excellent cast as it does the writing, which is crisp and lends itself to a fast-paced evening of fun.
Reprising their roles from a production a number of years ago at the (now curtained) Onyx as Gregorovich Samsonovsky Turgenev and Irina Polina Ranevskaya are T.J Larsen and Kellie Wright. Both do a great job of playing the over-the-top comedy.
Wright has the upper hand for two reasons. She gets the meatier role of an “actress” and plays it to the hilt. When she does a bawdy number borrowed—“well, stolen from Lilly Langtry”—Wright does it up right. The role provides her with plenty of opportunity to swoon and seduce. Her vocal experience also gives her perfect timing in delivery of both physical and vocal reactions.
For his part, Larsen keeps up with her. His double-takes, his reactions to Irina’s antics are a joy to watch. When he argues with Aleksi Aleskeyvich Trofimov (Richie Villafuente), Larsen is in it for the win. He projects the perfect figure of a man who has lifted himself up from serfdom to become Lord of the Manor, not to mention mad scientist.
Not to be outdone are the aforementioned Villafuente and Rebecca Reyes as Mauranya Arkadina Masha, or simply Masha. As a bit of a Dudley Do-right character, Villafuente is clearly having fun, and that enables the audience to enjoy him as he tries to woo Masha – in hopes of marrying into money. Reyes doesn’t quite meet the level of her fellow cast members but manages to hold her own when she is willing to let go, as she does when she wails with forlorn abandon.
Then there is Adriana Chavez. From start to finish, her Anfisa is a complete hoot. Playing a character you’d swear was 150-years old, hunched over with a widow’s hump and breasts sagging and swinging at her belly-button, Chavez delivers perfection. Anfisa is put upon, pushed around, and taken for granted, and Chavez makes each occurance feel like the first.
Jody Caley’s lighting which takes advantage of many of the typical spoofing of fright-night films piles laughs on top of laughs. The set (originally) designed by the late David Sankeur, and recreated here, is lovely: Gilt-framed paintings abound on papered walls, and draperies which mimic the brocade of the period hang along the windows. Uncredited sound design added to the fun but, when Wright delivered the “Husky Russkie Waltz” the music was so loud we could barely hear her.
Sometimes, if we allow it, tragedy begets comedy. And, here’s your chance for a respite from the turmoil of current life. Go laugh at “The Cherry Orchard … of the Living Dead.” This tragedy, er…comedy becomes them.
What: Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard of the Living Dead
When: Thursday - Saturday 8pm; Sundays 5pm through February 12
Where: Majestic Repertory Theatre, 1217 South Main St.
Tickets: $23 (www.majesticrepertory.com)
Grade: **** (Delicious)
Producer: Majestic Repertory Theatre; Director: Troy Heard; Original Scenic Design: David Sankeur; Lighting Design: Jody Caley; Costume Design: Isaiah Urrbazo; Prop Design: Armando Macias, Jr.; Stage Managers: Corey Covell, Coral Benedetti