I was glad I'd read the play yesterday, even though it didn't make it all perfectly clear to me. I read the NY Times' review last night, which gave me a few ideas about what the production I was about to see. But such things will never take the place of actually attending.
Some moments I wasn't entirely sure what made them funny, only they were.
I sat next to three older women, who had been to My Fair Lady yesterday. During the interval we discussed what we thought of the show thus far, and varying ways of interpreting some of the comments earlier. Including the misquoted Hamlet.
One of the things that struck me was the austerity of colour. It's the second production in a month that I've seen with the same sort of colour scheme in costume and scenery. I suppose this is hardly surprising given that both productions were set in the same sort of era - though one was set in an era of this world and the other in an era of a world none of us know.
Even during the party scenes, when some of guests and family are decked out in jewel colours and jewels themselves, with glittering chandelier and ornate parlour furniture. Flickering candlelight in elaborate arrangements, the magic of illusion, the music and laughter and gaiety echoing back from the room off stage... a dream attempting to banish the impending result of the auction - which no one but Varya wishes to accept the response.
I loved Varya, the adopted daughter (or so the programme says) who appears to be appreciated by no one - and the only one who truly seems to appreciate the idiocy of spending money like it was a commodity, when their lives are about to descend into ruin around them. She moves with a purpose, always, giant ring of keys jingling at her belt. And yet, with Anya, she is soft and gentle and loving. And when the news comes of who now owns their ancestral home, she removes the keys from her belt, holds them in her hands. I wondered, then, would she pass them to Lopakhin, whom everyone believes she will one day marry. Instead, after a few moments of indecision, she throws them to the floor at his feet, and marches out. The inability of so many to understand was just ... unbelievable. Makes me wonder how much this sort of story will parallel other, less fictional, stories in this global climate.
Everyone believes, and speaks incessantly of, the upcoming nuptials of Varya and Lopakhin. She hates the talk of it, as he has never asked her, never spoken to her in such a way. Does not even know she exists. At the very end, when her mother suggests he propose, he begins, but ... he cannot continue. He stumbles over it, and speaks of nothings - something so many of us can understand.
When the lights go down, after a final sad scene with Firs, the audience erupts into applause, that doesn't diminish until after the lights come up and we have to admit that it is all over. I could not help but reflect on such applause, contrasting it against the applause for The Arrival a few weeks ago. This play got such applause and earned it. That show, it didn't get the audience that it deserved, and consequently (though it earned as much as this one did) not the applause. I hope that one day it comes back, that one day The Arrival gets such acclaim and applause. But for now, The Cherry Orchard was as magnificent as I could have hoped it to be.
I think I learned something today. I'm glad I went. And now, I think, I shall re-read the play I read only yesterday. Somehow I think my reading of it will be different this time around.