Feature photo: Justin Jain and Krista Apple, by Ashley Smith of Wide Eyed Studios
Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard is about a Russian family, along with working members at their estate, struggling with potential foreclosure. Social and economical changes surround them and much of the plot is still relatable even today. Director Dmitry Krymov (whose previous productions have won five Golden Mask awards- the Tony of Russia), and the massively talented Wilma HotHouse players, have collaborated to shake up the characters of The Cherry Orchard and create a new vision for this old tale. I can only imagine how much fun and creativity was bursting from the writers room (or zoom meetings?) while coming up with the historical and pop culture references to incorporate into this performance.
I bet you aren’t expecting to see a volleyball game take place on stage, or a nod to Friends, or someone scaling the audience to snatch a stage light. What about an additional cast member in the form of a railway station split flap sign? Wilma’s Orchard has an improv comedy vibe and keeps the audience laughing and thinking. Characters often break the fourth wall to interact with the audience and actors step out of their roles to speak as themselves. But, the story is still somber and even takes a moment to acknowledge the current war in the Ukraine, the real-life “dragons” we face daily, and the importance of escaping reality for a bit to play and have fun with each other in a theatre.
I’m always thrilled to see the HotHouse cast members listed in programs around Philadelphia. If you’ve seen this season’s Uncle Vanya or the digital Heroes of the Fourth Turning, you know how great they are. In The Cherry Orchard they organize the chaos on stage so well, perfectly bouncing off one another and always so cohesive. Watching them fall all over (and clean up) cherries on stage, crawling through the theatre with suitcases, or picking up scattered dinnerware, I was delighted by every move. The brilliant company includes Krista Apple as Ranyevska, Justin Jain as Lopakhin, Ross Beschler as Yepikhodov, Lindsay Smiling as Gayev, Matteo Scammell as Yasha, Jaime Maseda as Firs, Suli Holum as Carlotta, Campbell O’Hare as Anya, Sarah Gliko as Varya, Brett Ashley Robinson as Dunyasha, Trevor W. Fayle as Trofimov.
Revisit The Cherry Orchard– or see it for the first time in a whole new light- at The Wilma Theater through May 1st. This is a must-see and you’ll be in for one of the most unique performances you’ll witness this season in Philadelphia. Single tickets are currently available by visiting wilmatheater.org. Tickets are $25-$59, with additional discounts for students, artists, educators, and those under 40.