“The Cherry Orchard” is a play about leaving. It’s Chekhov’s rumination on looking at a place you’ve grown to know, and being forced to walk away. Last night, at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, the Connecticut Repertory Theater pulled off a phenomenal performance, exactly what Chekhov would have pictured – just 120 years in the future in accents that hadn’t been invented yet. The sensational cast took the timeless tale of money gone astray, and gave one of the best performances I’ve seen at Jorgensen in my years at UConn.
“The play was brilliant,” Elizabeth Canning of Pomfret said. “Every production that we have been to here has been absolutely brilliant. From the dramas to the comedies, they’re all wonderfully done, you know, and we’re fortunate to have such a marvelous venue in our area.”
When asked if any of the performances stood out, Canning praised familiar faces.
“I recognized several from last year as well,” Canning said. “They’re all just amazing.”
In addition to perfectly telling stories of movement and loss, the cast of ‘The Cherry Orchard’ gave us something deeper: the idea that money corrupts, and social change is inevitable. A formerly aristocratic family fallen on hard times, with the shadow of an overwhelming class shake-up on the horizon, may have been written more than a century prior, but its message rings truer than ever in 2019’s America. The October Revolution occurred 13 years after the play originally premiered, and Yasha, a young servant, is noticeably influenced by Marx (he even slips in a “comrade” in a long monologue). The performances of the cast were so thorough and dense that I couldn’t believe these nuanced themes shone through on its first night. It deserved its standing ovation.
Shaun Hilditch, the father of Abigail Hilditch who portrayed Anya in the play, travelled all the way from Phoenix, Arizona to see his daughter perform.
“Russians are difficult, and they executed beautifully tonight,” Hilditch gushed. “I thought it was a great show, it was wonderful.”
Like me, Hilditch had many thoughts about the play’s ethos. “You expect things to happen to you because of who you are versus what’s reality,” Hilditch said. “And they didn’t face reality, and Chekhov made them pay.”
“It’s a very apropos play for right now,” Grace Hopkins of Cape Cod said. “It’s about commodities, what you own, the things that are handed down to you and mishandling money.” As my conversation with Hopkins wrapped up, Abigail Hilditch herself joined us.
“It was a beautiful process, and it was a masterclass in Chekhov,” Hilditch said, praising her fellow cast.
The play ended with the titular cherry orchard being sold (spoiler alert), and a majority of the characters departing for new lives. Although the crowd was mostly adults, there were a sizable amount of students, like myself, in the audience, and, odds are, there were some in their last year, like myself, too. We’ll be leaving our own cherry orchard sooner than later, and I can only hope for my farewell speech to this university to be as great as the ones I saw last night. Bravo.
Daniel Cohn is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.