[CHATHAM, NY] – PS21 and Walking the dog Theater (WTD) present Anton Chekhov’s triumphant final play, “The Cherry Orchard,” Thursdays through Sundays, July 5-22. This classic, often farcical Russian comedy/drama will be directed by David Anderson, with original musical score by Jonathan Talbot. All twelve performances begin at 8:00pm under The Tent at PS21, 2980 Route 66 in the Town of Chatham, New York.
Filled with eccentric characters, romance and mystery, “The Cherry Orchard” is both inspirational and insightful. “Chekhov reveals his characters in all their flaws and strengths. He allows us to see all of our human possibilities as unique and universal, beautiful and laughable,” explained Director David Anderson. “In every moment there is a perspective in which we can see it as profound and a perspective in which we can see it as absurd. And always, he places it all in the context of a greater whole, within a larger story that our little story is a part of.”
While Chekhov intended this play as a comedy, others insist it’s a tragedy. Since its initial production in 1904, directors have contended with its dual nature. “The characters are tragic and sometimes pathetic and yet, at the same time, they are funny and surprising,” said Anderson. “Each character is on their own journey and trajectory, and each is on the threshold of some major change in their lives.”
Unique to this production of “The Cherry Orchard” will be the physical space. “PS21’s setting in the apple orchard was a key element in our decision to do this play,” added Anderson. “The presence of the cherry orchard may as well be a character in the play, and the presence of the PS21 orchard will certainly contribute its own magic to the experience.”
Many of the challenges that many American communities are facing are similar to those the family in the play is facing. “There are the questions of an economic class system, new money and old money, and development vs. land stewardship,” said Anderson. “The play itself is about the foibles and fates of a group of people looking for meaning and understanding amidst the hardships their lives meet.”
Walking the dog Theater has a particular affinity to the works of Chekhov. “We love his work and find inexhaustible inspiration and insight and revelation in it,” said Anderson. “We just performed “Chekhovek” Off-Broadway earlier this year, in which his short stories were featured, “I Take Your Hand” two years ago, and “The Three Sisters” with the senior class at Hawthorne Valley School earlier this year.”
Auditions for “The Cherry Orchard” were held in Boston, New York City, and locally. The actors hired are from these cities and from several other states, and they will all be moving to Chatham for the summer.
“The Cherry Orchard” cast features veteran actors Lora Lee Ecobelli as Mme Ranevskaya and John Romualdi as Lopakhin. Malden Bridge native Lily Balsen (Barrington Stage’s “10×10 On North”) will play Varya, Mme. Ranevsky’s adopted daughter. Great Barrington resident David Wade Smith will play the part of Firs. WTD regulars include Paul Boothroyd (“Eurydice,” “12th Night,” “OFF LEASH!”) as the student, and Nancy Rothman (“Our Town,” “Eurydice,” “OFF LEASH!”) as the governess. The cast is rounded out with Ulster County resident and “Chronogram Magazine” poetry editor Phillip Levine, Emerson College students and graduates Josephine Elwood, Joseph Freeman, Gabriel Rodriguez and Natalie Wong, Columbia County resident and professional actor Glenn Barrett, and Hawthorne Valley School teachers Simon Frishkoff and Kevin Kilb.
Walking the dog Theater’s production of “The Cherry Orchard” will be held July 5-22. Preview nights are July 5-8, $20 general admission $15 students. Talkback nights, when the actors and the production team will answer questions and be available for feedback or conversation directly after the show, will be Thursday evenings and tickest are $25/$20 members/$15 students. Tickets for all nights other than Preview and Talk Back Nights are $30/$25 members/$18 students. All shows begin at 8:00pm. This program is made possible in part with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a public agency.
PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century is a not-for-profit organization located in Chatham, New York. PS21 is dedicated to the performing arts and to serving a diverse community with concerts, programs and residencies by professional artists and ensembles, youth and children’s programming, and cultural education opportunities for all ages.