FEATUREMarch 2023

Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard at North Coast Rep


By Eva Trieger

North Coast Repertory Theatre has but one goal: to provide entertaining and thought-provoking theatre to patrons of all ages and experiences. The upcoming show will bear this out as Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard is performed under the direction of David Ellenstein. The Artistic Director has selected a version of this Russian story written by Jeane-Claude ven Itallie from among other treatments.

In a recent telephone interview, Ellenstein told me that he directed this very show 32 years ago and has longed to bring it to NCRT audiences but was awaiting the dreamed of remodel. Acknowledging that this was slow in coming to fruition, the decision was made to do it now.  I was curious to know if Ellenstein was at all concerned that a sympathetic story towards Russia may be met wtih some push back or cynicism.  Ellenstein responded in the negative. “It a story about 1903 Russia, and is a wholly universal experience.  It is not a Russian story, but a human one.” The tale and characters are “complicated, fascinating, absurd, deep thinking, mean and kind.” They represent the full complement of all humans, everywhere.

Though the play was written as a comedy, it contains elements of every human expression, from slapstick to despairing. Its authenticity is inherent in the lines spoken, and unspoken, by each complex character. The deepest message conveyed, is the desire and often, the inability for humans to connect with each other, despite their efforts. “The characters swirl around each other, but often cannot connect.” Ellenstein was quick to point out that this depth holds true not only for the main characters, but avers that even the small characters are “juicy.”

The play reveals the troubled economic/political climate of Russia, beginning with the emancipation of the serfs and the turmoil that would ferment and percolate, leading to the 1917 revolution. Chekhov’s last play reveals the plight of an aristocratic landowner who returns to her family estate shortly before it is auctioned off to pay the mortgage. Viewers will observe the struggles between the tenacious and reluctant nobility and the working class citizens who are looking to the west for something beyond their traditional ways. Ellenstein made a point of reminding me that while we tend to associate communism with Russia, this economic-political philosophy had its origins in Germany and England.

This cast is comprised of the greatest number of equity actors of any NCRT show to date! The thirteen actors are gifted and work with a great deal of synergy. Due to theiir high calibre, no dramaturg or linguist was required to achieve the desired effect.

Audiences are certain to leave the theatre with a new appreciation for Anton Chekhov, admiration for Marty Burnett’s inspired set design, and an ache for human frailties.

The Cherry Orchard runs March 1—26, 2023. Tickets may be purchased online at boxoffice@northcoastrep.org or by calling (858) 481-1055.


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