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Growing Pains

[whitespace] The Cherry Orchard
Paul Schraub

Talent Show: The actors of the UCSC theater arts department brings talent to its production of 'The Cherry Orchard,' continuing this weekend.

UCSC's theater arts department infuses talent into Chekhov's humorless 'Cherry Orchard'

By Karina Ioffee

THE UCSC THEATER ARTS department has put on some wonderful productions in the past, including Edward Albee's The Zoo Story and the student-written and -produced Chautauqua, and it boasts a group of extremely talented performers. But while a top-notch cast of student performers puts forth its best collective foot in the two-weekend run of The Cherry Orchard, it's Anton Chekhov's classic four-act play itself that misses the mark. Despite being billed as a comedy, the humor content of The Cherry Orchard is low, and the tragic tone left more than a few audience members disappointed.

The saving grace of the play was, surprisingly enough, the actors cast in supporting roles. The maid Dunyasha is sweet, charming and sensitive, and Leon Gayev, the brother of the landowner, is never short of a witty comment. Played by Diana Rivera and Sam Misner, respectively, these characters prove that good acting and the most engaging characters need not be the main focus of a plot.

Chekhov's final work is a story about the complexities of turn-of-the-century Russian society and those challenged by turbulent economic times. Lyubov Andreyevna (played by Jenny Kiatta), upon her return from Paris, finds her estate being eyed by developers wanting to purchase the property and turn it into an early version of a townhouse community. Her decision is made more difficult by the prospect of having to let go of the property's beautiful cherry orchard. Though the orchard yields little fruit, it provides plenty of comfort to all the members of the house. Familial tensions multiply when the family learns about its worsening economic condition and growing debt.

Presenting the age-old conflict of nature and simplicity versus commercialism, the play begs the audience to consider the dilemma of The Cherry Orchard's family and sympathize with it. Despite being written almost a hundred years ago, the play speaks to modern audiences better than ever, particularly as communities like Santa Cruz grapple with issues of commercial development.

Jenny Kiatta's role as Lyubov Andreyevna is significant, and she carries off the part with the poise and charisma expected of the family matriarch. Jaime Avelar Guzman's acting skills are also apparent in his role as Yermolai Lopakhin, the greedy merchant eyeing not only Lyubov Andreyevna's property but also her daughter.

The scenery and stage props create a hauntingly beautiful set, complete with a plastic-tube-and-tissue-paper orchard and period furniture. The actors' costumes are regal as well; many don faux fur coats and elaborate dresses.

Directed by UCSC drama professor Kathy Foley, the production of The Cherry Orchard proves that just because a play is a classic work doesn't mean it's good. Luckily, the theater arts department actors are.


The Cherry Orchard continues Fri-Sat (8pm) and Sun (3pm) at the Mainstage Theater, UCSC. Tickets cost $9/$8/$6/$5. For more info, call 459-2159.

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From the March 3-10, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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