The Cherry Orchard review Diane Lane stars in disarrayed Chekhov comedy

Jumpy actors and an unusual vocabulary are among many jarring elements in a scattered adaptation that never gets out of the woods

I dont know what to make of it, says Ranevskaya in the midst of The Cherry Orchard. Im losing my bearings. I could scream right now.

Many spectators must sigh in sympathy as they brave this disarrayed take on the Chekhov comedy, produced by the Roundabout Theater. The gifted playwright Stephen Karam and the lauded director Simon Godwin have lumbered the piece with ideas about class and race and economic inequality, none of them achieved clearly or forcefully in this scattered production. The costumes suggest every decade of the past 100 years. The set, which initially looks borrowed from the last production at the American Airlines theatre, Long Days Journey Into Night, might indicate Russia, might insinuate America, or might hint at some far-off land populated by Calder mobiles. The style is similarly indeterminate, volleying between Williams-ish rhapsody and Albee-esque absurdism, with a dash of Alan Ayckbourn, too.

Diane Lane stars as Ranevskaya, an aristocratic woman who abandoned her daughter (Tavi Gevinson) and stepdaughter (Celia Keenan-Bolger) to live in relative penury with a lover. Now discarded by him, she has just returned from Paris at the moment when her estate is about to be sold. Lopakhin (Harold Perrineau), an up-by-the-bootstraps millionaire, has a plan to make the orchard profitable, but Ranevskaya and her brother (John Glover) find his entrepreneurship vulgar. So they spend and dance and dither while the house and land are put to auction.

So, yes, all of the familiar elements of plot and character are here, but Karam hasnt found a vocabulary with which to articulate them, nor Godwin a framework in which to realize them. Much of the language is pointedly modern jackass, healthcare, uptight but some of it isnt chaste, immoral, juicy little cucumber used as a term of endearment. Because the world isnt specific, the patronymics never sound right, and substituting The New Colossus for a poem about the Volga boatmen doesnt help.

Godwins direction hasnt endowed the cast (which also includes Joel Grey as a servant and Chuck Cooper as a neighbor) with a sense of shared endeavor. Most of the actors seem jumpy, talking and moving and gesturing at speed, as though the stage manager had distributed Adderall while calling places. The performers seem to be in radically different plays. A couple of them appear simply lost, but many take the opportunity to make a meal out of every bit of business. And then order dessert. And then a cheese course. And perhaps a demitasse.

There are ideological principles in play here and a couple of provocations, as when Lopakhins triumphal jig takes on the rhythms of a tribal dance (the original music is by Nico Muhly). But the heart and that particular laughter-through-tears tone seem to have deserted the piece. You cant see the Chekhovian forest for all the miscellaneous trees.

Read more: