Sunday, July 10, 2011


The current production of The Cherry Orchard at the Guild Festival Theatre is a truly unique outdoor experience. Elegant costumes by Bonnie Deakin and atmospheric lighting by Amanda Gougeon provide crisp characterization against the moody grays of an imposing background replete with grand sculpted arches and spectacular chiseled columns. Scenic design (consultation) by Troy Hourie, comprised of pieces of antique furniture set sparingly across the playing space, floats in a kind of classical Greek milieu as Sten Eirik’s direction provides a lively, fast paced spectacle that brings the essence of Chekhov’s pastoral bourgeois drama to life. The Russian playwright's particular brand of dramaturgy runs the risk of becoming a slow moving dirge if it is not directed with an ear to the highs and lows of panicked family members going through a myriad of emotions once threatened with the loss of their ancestral home. Eirik has found a lovely balance between light comedy and class-based tragedy, essential to the success of Chekhov’s lyrical interrogations of the demise of a decidedly aristocratic way of life. Music by David Buchbinder gives the overall production a subtle melodramatic tone that suits the grand setting and provides the production with a powerful ambience.

Dawna Wightman as Lyubov leads a cast that shines as they blend a form of flighty comic realism with lilting playful physicality that has them cavorting around a gorgeous outdoor space that was originally assembled in the 1960s from pieces of old Toronto buildings about to be torn down. This curiously bedecked setting provides the perfect environment for a play about a family who are rapidly losing their sense of history and have assembled one last time in a futile, yet loving attempt to hold what is left of their heritage, and their class structure, together. John Jarvis as Gaev injects a kind of careless paternalism into the cast and portrays the perennial billiard-playing brother with great physical agility and a wonderful stylish vocal delivery. Jesse Dwyre's student matches Jarvis’ thespian skill with a variety of studied and engaging moments of romantic play and political aspiration.

Wightman is superb as Lyubov as she mixes a happy go lucky, scattered quality with a form of altruistic passion that culminates in powerful and moving speeches defining her great attachment to a home and a past she can never fully retrieve, yet longs for through a form of traumatized melancholia. Paul Amato’s Lopahkin complements Wigthman’s performance as he coddles, persuades, and finally surrenders to her double-edged frivolity in a way that ultimately self-satisfies his own great business acumen. Rounded out by consistently delightful performances by Kanika Ambrose, Linzee Barclay, Tamera Broczkowski, Melissa Haddad, Stephen McLarty, James Patrick Pettitt, Bryan Stanish and James R. Woods, the large ensemble cast manages to bring the intricate plot and characters to full fruition as they move toward the end of an era in Russian history, represented in Chekhov’s drama by a single family’s attempt to tie up loose ends before they go their separate ways. Perhaps the most memorable performance comes from Bryan Stanish as Firs, the long suffering, somewhat senile manservant who represents all that is left behind by the rather chaotic ramblings of a family and a social hierarchy in ruins. His performance punctuates the pathos that runs through the narrative as he skillfully fumbles through the maintenance of a family out of sync with the times and utterly beyond repair.

running until July 31st at Guild Inn Gardens - Greek Theatre, 201 Guildwood Parkway, Scarborough

for directions go to the Company website at

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