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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

In Context: The Cherry Orchard

The Maly Drama Theatre comes to BAM February 17–27 with Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece The Cherry Orchard. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #TheCherryOrchard.

Program Notes

The Cherry Orchard (PDF)


BAM Blog Questionnaire: The Cherry Orchard's Danila Kozlovksy

“A Life in Theater: Lev Dodin” (The Guardian)
For Dodin, “theatre became a little corner of freedom” amid an anxious wartime existence.

The Maly's Cherry (BAM blog)
It was a farewell to the old order, written while its author battled tuberculosis. But Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, he insisted, was every bit a comedy.

BAM Blog Questionnaire: The Cherry Orchard's Danila Kozlovsky (BAM blog)
Lopakhin himself dishes on the company’s rehearsal process and how theater is a lot like professional sports.

Maly Drama Theatre
Founded in Leningrad in 1944, the Russian theater is now revered the world over.

Anton Chekhov and Modernity (
Chekhov must be understood amid the “rise of the bourgeoisie, the decline of the aristocracy, and the imminence of revolution.”

“Why We Love Chekhov” (NPR)
"Never difficult but often demanding ... sometimes dour, but rarely hopeless."

Watch & Listen

On Lev Dodin and the Maly Drama Theatre (YouTube)
Dodin reflects on the musicality of theater and more in this panoramic documentary.

Now your turn...

What did you think? What was special about Maly Drama Theatre’s approach to the play? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #TheCherryOrchard.


  1. I am so glad I followed my instinct to see the play (I added it after I had already purchased my original subscription.) While surtitles almost inevitably cause me to miss some of the action, the opportunity to hear Anton Chekhov's words in Russian more than made up for it. I often have trouble caring much for the aristocracy in plays that take place during the rise of the bourgeoisie, but the subtle humor and clever staging reeled me in. I cared, because I could see just how shocking this change would have been for Lyubov Ranevskaya (Ksenia Rappoport was convincing in the role) and her family, and their utter denial pained me (when it wan't making me laugh.) Utilizing the entire theater, was brilliant. It made me feel a real part of the action, making me more vested in the fates of the characters. The faded vintage film of happier times in the cherry orchard helped me feel their sense of loss. I may not be part of the nobility, but even I can relate to the loss of a home and time and place that I loved. Danila Kozlovskiy was powerful as the merchant Lopakhin. He was already pretty obviously doing things his way. I am not sure his belting out the tune "My Way" was really necessary -- but it was probably hard to resist including it. It definitely got the chuckle it was aiming for, but I found it broke the spell of the time and place.

  2. There's a moment in Thomas Mann's epic work, The Magic Mountain, where the lead character, Hans Castorp, reflects on measuring time "actually." His conclusion is that because we all experience the passage of time in different capacities, sometimes reeling and fast, sometimes lurching and slow, time is not actual.

    Apply this same conclusion to Lev Dodin's production of The Cherry Orchard. An audience doesn't need the cogs of stage time to come to a grinding halt to feel ennui. Neither does it need cast traipsing and tramping across every crook and cranny of the auditorium to feel space and expanse. Just tell the story. That's all you have to do.

    Aside from these hiccups, I thought it was a strong production.

  3. Dodin emphasizes Chekhov's compassion for the characters and regret for the imminent dissolution of modern social order and values and invites the audience to share that sympathy by covering seats with the same white cloth spread over the the furniture on the stage, placing seats within the set and expanding the action territory into the orchestra. It was an unforgettable theatrical experience, by far the best "Cherry Orchard" I have ever seen, whose comedy aspects are subtly stressed by the adaptation's intelligent humor and the company's brilliant acting (Ksenia Rappoport as Ranevskaya is nothing less than superb). I can't understand why so many reviewers write about lengthiness or even ennui: I got spelled since the very first second and did enjoy every single moment of the show with a sense of profound joy and emotional admiration for the rare beauty running in front of me for 3 entire too short hours of pure blessing. Dodin's "Vishnevyi sad" is a miracle and shouldn't be missed.

  4. I grew up in St. Petersburg, Russia and saw several very interesting Lev Dodin productions there. Yesterday I felt like I returned to that cultural environment - amazing production, real "master class"!

  5. Fabulous production… very Russian…thanks for jolting the Americans awake last night with Frank Sinatra's rendition of "I Did It My Way"….I salute the cast and the production team!

  6. Tedious, with bouts of shouting. Chekhov's brilliant demonstration of boredom and emotional caprice cannot be conveyed in that way. Sad efforts to be hip--projected film, cheap surprise of a Sinatra song--fell flat. I love Chekhov and have seen many stagings. This was poorly directed and acted.

  7. First of all, I have to say that Chekov is my favorite playwright, and as an actress, I’m very aware of how difficult he is to make “work.” I found the cast excellent, and I cannot express how thrilled I am that we are now finally taking the master at his word—that he was writing comedies. I cannot think of any other writer who absolutely nailed the absurdity of the human condition and at the same time allows these funny folk to move us profoundly. And never mind the New York Times, I think this production by the Maly Theater would have made him ecstatic.

    My only quibble is that the pacing does not allow for the applause a frustrated audience is itching to give Lopakhin’s brilliantly executed “aria” about being able to buy the estate where his forebears were serfs, although I agree with the people who didn’t like the inclusion of “My Way,” which was jarring.

  8. Ham fisted acting, an odd insertion of Sinatra's worst song, the screen as projection and separation together with muslin covering of seats created an incomplete conceptualization ... Not sure that Chekov would have been feeling this interpretation of his Cherry Orchard.

  9. Just as another poster above I grew up in St. Petersburg and was familiar with this director and his theater. So great was my anticipation of this play that I made sure to bring my entire family along, from my 80-year-old mother to my 16-year-old son. What a disappointment awaited us all... I love Chekhov and have seen many interpretations of the C.O. but this one was by far the worst. Actors who confuse screaming with acting, annoying white screen that permanently obscures the stage, the constant traipsing through the auditorium and the out of the blue Sinatra number - sung by a Russian peasant in English! - a cheap bone thrown to the NY audience - what a mish-mash of nonsequiturs. Add to that the ridiculous ending which is typically very poignant, with the old valet, Firs, alone in the empty house - in this case Firs ( badly cast, the actor is too young) goes on an agressive spree with an energy that any other 90-year-old would be jealous of while more video sequences play on the screen... I could not wait to get out of the theater.

  10. I liked this play. Yes, it is very different interpretation of all others of Chekhov. I guess it was done for other generation taste - very modern. One very important thing was absolutely horrible - the acoustic. Even Russian is my native language I wasn't able to hear and to understand what actors say, needed to read English translation for to follow the text...never in my life I had this problem in any Theater before...

  11. It was so bad, I left at intermission.
    Poorly acted, poorly staged, poorly directed.

  12. Yes, it was beyond terrible! Intermission could not have come sooner. So unprofessional, so poorly acted, directed and staged - no redeeming value! They should be ashamed of treating Chekhov this way. Dilettantes! Had to apologize to my American friends for this mess. They were dumbfounded.

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  14. It was poignant and bitter. Will Lyuba Ranevskaya's (Ksenia Rappoport) aristocratic beauty really save the world that molded her personality? How feckless and helpless she is!(Then again it refers to her brother Leonid.) Isn't it comfortable to prolong the agony of her desperate passion resorting to quite traditional methods, among which is taking the shirt off her daughter's back? Ranevskaya is incapable of memorizing Lopakhin's first name, to say nothing of facing the impending disaster and clearing up the mess. What is it she takes notice of after her return? That the people have grown older and lost their good looks.
    Never before have I seen Petya Trofimov (Oleg Ryazantsev) like this! The "ugly gentleman" in Dodin and Ryazantsev's interpretation excites more pity than Gayev and Ranevskaya, he, alone (IMHO), personifies the very essence of Chekhov's dying breed.
    Varya (Elizaveta Boiarskaia) is tragic with her unfulfilled fate, no matter how readily (or rather feverishly) she joins the choir of "Tout va très bien, Madame le Marquise". The tears in her eyes and tormented look never leaving her face counterbalance the affected comic element of the play (Chekhov designated "The Cherry Orchard" as a comedy.)
    Yermolai Lopakhin (Danila Kozlovskiy) is superb! It's amazing how down to earth he sounds yet how exuberantly emotional he is at the same time. Lopakhin's humming "Belle" from "Notre Dame de Paris" or shrilling out Sinatra's "My Way" seemed well blended with the directorial concept of the play and by no means were jarring. Lopakhin is no predator, he just opted for aggressive problem-solving strategies.
    Yasha (Stanislav Nikolskii) is explicitly comic and grotesquely expressive teaching Dunyasha an elaborate European sex education lesson.
    And finally Firs, the old manservant, shut in the abandoned house as a result of joint irresponsibility demonstrated by both the people of quality with their delicate psyche and the new property owner with his entrepreneurial efficiency. The man per se is no longer of interest to anyone.
    At the end of the performance we see a close boarded fence that replaces the orchard and the characters of the play in a prison uniform projected on this fence. Dodin leaves no hope pointing to this outcome as the only one. He laughs best who laughs last....
    The stage design (A. Borovsky) and costumes are the feast to my eyes! I highly recommend this production as it leaves so much food for thought and tackles persistent problems of current (and perpetual!) concern.

  15. I thought the production was very original, with the use of film and the sheeting to indicate the outer wall of the house. I found it easy to take in the translation screen and the action from my seat in the Gallery section at the top of the theater. Thank you for bringing this great play to us in New York.

  16. Sadly, as the old servant, Kirs, makes perfectly clear, the scene of the action is "nowhere" and the "house" and "estate" are phantasms behind locked doors. This was a very broad interpretation of this play and the unsubtle characterizations made for both comic effects and over the top histrionics.

    The production concept did very little to clarify either the relationships between the protagonists or their profound attachment to their "childhood home". The indistinct film images conveyed the sense of a "lost time gone by", but, somehow no connection was made to the actors on stage that was palpable to the audience.

  17. I am from Leningrad (long time ago!). Love theater.
    But this is terribly disappointing. Poor staging, bad acting. Couldn't wait to leave and did at intermission.

  18. I left at the intermission. That's how I felt. That leaving to deal with MTA during a NYC downpour would be better than dealing with more waving of arms, screaming and shouting --and that ridiculous white curtain. No editing. No thought given to areas that were just too much provocacation. Actors sitting in the audience. Lights everywhere. What a circus. Prosaic madness. Where are the good theater venues? BAM should be setting a precedent. Not lowering the caliber of an already dying art.

  19. I think the positive responses on this message board can be attributed the friends and family of those in the show. That is the only explanation I can fathom for such a droll piece of theater.

    1. I respect your right to think whatever you want about the origin of positive reviews of the performance. But judging it requires a certain type of preparation and argumentation.

  20. Cherry Orchard by Maly Drama Theatre of Saint Petersburg is very different from what New Yorkers are used to seeing. Although it is announced as a comedy, it is not light entertainment or a funny night out by any means. Cherry Orchard by Dodin requires a lot of attention and a certain openness from the audience. I strongly recommend watching it till the end and give it some thought. Here is my review of it:

  21. I loved it! The best production of The Cherry Orchard I have ever seen!

  22. Not good I walked out at the end of 1st act. Too over-acted... Great costumes and stage design. But the pauses were extremely long and the main actress was too over acted. What a shame. I love this play.

  23. The translation was inadequate, to the say the least. I pitied the non-Russian speakers in the audience. How could "kham/ , churl, insolent parvenue" have been translated as "peasant" -an insult to 85% of the Russian population during Chekhov's time and thus a complete distortion of Chekhov's- himself the grandson of a serf- meaning.


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