During the intermission for Steppenwolf’s production of “Cherry Orchard”—which uses a snappy new translation by associate artistic director Curt Columbus—I found myself sandwiched between two people going at it about George W. and the war in Iraq. At the time, all I could offer up was silence. I literally shut down. When the future looks so dismal, how do you avoid drowning in the sludgy dread of it all? For once, I actually empathized with Chekhov’s inertia-maniacs. Madam Ranevskaya (called Lovey here) has just returned home to her rural Russian estate to deal with a vexing matter: the house and its prized grounds (including the unblemished cherry orchard) will be auctioned off unless she can come up with an alternate way to pay off her debts. The practical solution is to lease the land out for summer cottages. It’s an option Lovey and her equally ineffectual brother deem too “vulgar.” And so they while away the months hoping that hope will make their problems magically disappear. Self-reinvention is a real bitch, especially when you’re on the wrong end of a financial statement. Amy Morton is quite good as Lovey. There’s a moment in particular that stands out: “Paris is over,” she says, tearing up a telegram from her ex-lover, and then quite suddenly she falls back a little. It’s awkward and sad and it happens in an instant. While there are other small, equally wonderful moments, the total impact of director Tina Landau’s production is oddly neutral—like the scrims of white lace designed by Riccardo Hernandez surrounding the audience and actors. You can’t help but wish for a few stains. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.