A View from the Cliff: “Cherry Orchard” blossoms in Red Hook

Today, Red Hook’s waterfront is dominated by massive construction cranes. Their long steel branches tower over streets and warehouses. Just yards away, more natural shapes prevail. Dozens of trees, representing immortal playwright Anton Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard,” share Falconworks Theater Company’s performance space at 133 Imlay Street.

Director Reg Flowers has adapted the century-old drama to mesh with our millennium’s sensibilities. The result is haunting and riveting. A basic theater-in-the-round construction overflows its boundaries to inhabit the entire venue, once an industrial facility, now a home for the arts.

The story line itself is uncomplicated. A wealthy family, frivolously ignoring economic and societal reversals, is about to lose its assets. The event will doom their home and their renowned cherry orchard.

The characters, however, are much more complex. Beautiful Luna’s (Stephanie Batchelder) mercurial personality leaps from affection, to obsession, to frustration, to recklessly squandering her remaining wealth and relationships. Her daughter Anna (Cassie Gilling) is equally paradoxical.

Adopted daughter Barbara (Crystal Joy) is morose and overly pragmatic. Her uncle “Lorie” (Shaun Lamory) is as eccentric as his relatives. My personal favorite is “Smitty” (David Woodrow), a neighboring landowner who casually absorbs life’s bitter punches. He begs for loans and assumes his own good luck will prevail. And he’s right!

The character you love to hate is clearly Alexander (Saim Hyder). Once a poor peasant, he is now very, very wealthy. And very, very unscrupulous! Perpetual student Peter (Cyrus Salvia), footman Misha (Eusebio Arenas) and Zachariah (Brent White) are the younger generation.

The house staff includes seductive governess Celeste (Elly-Anne Ehrman), attractive Michaela (Angela L. Fraser) and hobbling octogenarian Sal (Larry Gutman).

What is fascinating in this abridged four-act tragedy is the pacing. There seems to be a pause from one character’s voice to the next character’s response. As a result, we are lured into a repetitive analysis of the story’s deeper meaning.

Is it some political attack on capitalism vs. socialism? Is it an intense psychological study where self destruction and greed compete for our attention? Ultimately, the troupe itself skillfully leaves the decision in our hands, eager for more revelations. Well done!

For information on this and future productions, call 718-395-3218, surf to www.falconworks.com or like them on Facebook at Falconworks Artists Group. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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