Making Chekhov A Moving Experience
There's a scene in the Roundabout Theatre Company's current Broadway revival of The Cherry Orchard where partygoers stream on and off the stage, making merry and celebrating the return of Madame Ranevskaya, a Russian landowner who has fallen on hard times.
But the celebration takes a dramatic turn when the news comes that her homestead and her beloved cherry orchard have been sold to Lopakhin, a local businessman whose family members have been servants on the property for generations.
The crowd goes quiet at the news, but Lopakhin, played by Harold Perrineau, insists that the party continue. He orders the musicians to start up again, and he begins to dance alone. Soon enough, his dance turns primal, expressing joy, pride, anger, grief, defiance, and finally a wild triumph.
For movement director Jonathan Goddard, who is working on this production with director (and frequent collaborator) Simon Godwin, this scene carries enormous weight. "I knew from the beginning Simon wanted to make it a really fresh and dynamic take on The Cherry Orchard," he says. "In a play where there are so many incredible words, I felt it was really important that somebody can express a key moment – a moment that is so intrinsic to the play – without any words."
Finding a fresh angle on the show might seem daunting. After all, Anton Chekhov's play, which premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre in 1904, has long been considered a cornerstone of world drama. Its themes of dwindling purpose and economic upheaval – not to mention its aching lyricism and subtle symbolism – arguably created a template modern theatre.
This revival honors that past, but thanks to a new adaptation by Stephen Karam (also on Broadway with his play The Humans), it injects a modern energy into the language that Godwin and Goddard mirror as well.”