Faction Fools’ usual comic shtick works wondrously well in The Cherry Orchard. The award winning Fools bring artistry, cultural awareness and salient knowledge with funny bone commedia comedy arts to everything they touch. With Hamlet, Our Town and so many other classics under their belts, why not tackle the passionate throes of frustration, disappointment and human foibles of Chekhov?
The foolery starts off strong and gets stronger with the entrance of each character. Two characters seek each other behind doorways and exits, just missing each other despite being in plain sight of the audience. Others enter and soon all engage in discussion about the family, their well-being, future plans and, most importantly, the diminishing financial status of the family property.
Physicality is paramount in Commedia dell’Arte, so each character has his and her own signature movement style. Some characters wear commedia masks while others do not. This hybrid mix provides a gateway of expression between traditional and foolery theater, a perfect introduction to the style for novices while adding depth of communication for Foolish fans. There’s so much to try to capture in Chekov that the blend is effective.
The non masked Sarah Barker as Lubov Andreyavna Ranevsky is splendid as the wayward matriarch who returns home after a time in Paris. Her travels were to overcome her grief after the death of her young son, but she must return to handle the family’s outlandish debt. Her daughters (Julia Klavans and Amber James) are also not masked. Gallaudet student Casey Johnson-Pasqua plays the governess and signs her impassioned messages with graceful ease. It’s a nice touch. The quartet of women are able to dialog and share feelings and express emotions in dealing with life-long questions, including what to do with the beloved cherry orchard?
Barker is a marvel, her acclaimed acting skills on full display as she commandeers the role of the multilayered Mother with a twinkle in her eye and light step, straddling the serious and goofy realms of the production.
Along with family, there are yearnings and couplings galore, with Danny Cackley as Trofimov in mime face as a desired mate which he delivers delightfully. Kathryn Zoerb as Ermolai, former servant turned businessman who functions as the narrator is a hoot. As confidante to Lubov, Ermolai zeros in on the practical, business side of rescuing the family – get a good price for the property, chop down the trees since land development is inevitable, and all will be well. The age-old battle between nostalgia, greed and survival is played beautifully by the fools with Zoerb at the helm, sometimes in Groucho Marx positioning.
Jack Novak, as the butler Fiers, is another fine performer of physical comedy style, which he embodies in his crouched down slow ambling walk. Fiers delivers the lines about the role of servitude and embodies the history relayed about emancipation, slaves, serfs, and generations of serfdom. Director Paul Reisman handles Chekhov’s original text with great skill, right down to the final tender scene when the house is boarded up with the old Fiers locked inside, forgotten and left behind, muttering endearingly on the couch.
The Cherry Orchard
closes June 10, 2018
Details and tickets
Jesse Terrill adds his artistic flair as Gaev, Lubov’s brother while his melodies as the composer bring a fun and wholesome spirit to the show.
The set design by Ethan Sinnott is the most sophisticated I’ve seen from this troupe, with a full length back frame of cut out windows and several door exits, that fold on a massive hinge to create a more snuggled intimate space. Behind the frame in abundant splendor are full cut outs of the beloved cherry trees with all the history they represent for Lubov as she periodically gazes longingly at them. All the while, the superb Kathryn Zoerb as Lopakhin makes menacing motions of cutting them down at every opportunity.
Costumes by Kitt Crescenzo are succulent, especially for Sara Barker who is given full length brocade opulent dresses, and elegant long gloves. Lighting by Kristin A. Thompson transitions from bright and bouncy for the frivolity to quiet and somber for the contemplative moments, especially the touching ending.
The program describes Commedia dell’Arte as “…theatre at its best with physical discipline, spontaneous imagination, collaborative energy, and joyous wonder.” The intent is to “rediscover classics” with their own particular spin. Their level of sophistication is seen in the handling the human elements in this renowned work. As noted—“Our miscommunications, our egos, our overzealous love, desire, lust, and jealousy, all fertile sources of comedy, are found in abundance in The Cherry Orchard.”
That’s just what they do at Faction of Fools, while adding a prat fall or two.
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov . Directed by Paul Reisman . Cast: Sara Barker, Julia Klavans, Amber James, Jesse Terrill, Franscesca Chilcote, Danny Cackley, Casey Johnson-Pasqua, Kathryn Zoerb, Jack Novak . Assistant Director: Nikolya Sereda . Set Design: Ethan Sinnott . Costume Design: Kitt Crescenzo . Lighting Jason: Kristin A. Thompson . Composer: Jesse Terrill . Production Stage Manager: Sarah Magno . Production Manager: Samantha Owens . Produced by Faction of Fools . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.