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Red carpet, pop music and happy ending. Director Yuri Muravitsky and performers of the main roles – about a new interpretation of the classics.

More than a hundred years ago Anton Chekhov wrote the play “The Cherry Orchard”. Performances based on it have long become classics of Russian theater. To create your own version of The Cherry Orchard is a challenge for any director: the performance has been staged so many times at home and in other countries that it seems difficult to say something new on this topic. Director Yuri Muravitsky decided to return the meaning that Chekhov, who wrote it in 1903 as a comedy, once laid down in the play. A short excursion into the history of the performances and a story about the new performance of the Taganka Theater can be found in the article.

Chekhov’s comedy

The Cherry Orchard was Chekhov’s last play. In January 1904, the premiere took place at the Moscow Art Theater, and six months later, the writer, who had suffered from tuberculosis for a long time, died at a resort in Germany. Next to him were the doctor and the inconsolable wife, actress Olga Knipper-Chekhova, who recently shone on the stage of the Moscow Art Theater in the role of the frivolous landowner Lyubov Ranevskaya. The Cherry Orchard remained in the theater’s repertoire until 1959, having survived different cast members.

Chekhov always called his play a comedy. “I wrote a comedy, not a whiny drama,” he repeated. “Why is my play persistently repeated as a drama in posters and newspapers?” Konstantin Stanislavsky himself argued with the author. He said that the dramatic component is too strong in the play: the return of the once rich Lyubov Ranevskaya to her native places, memories of a happy but irrevocably gone childhood and the death of her young son, the loss of the family estate along with the old cherry orchard, which they begin to cut down in the finale. However, the combination of the comic and the tragic is a characteristic feature of Chekhov’s plays.

In pop style

Among the productions that have become legends, the play by Anatoly Efros at the Taganka Theater (1975) with Vladimir Vysotsky as Lopakhin and Alla Demidova – Ranevskaya is often named. Today “The Cherry Orchard” returns to these walls. The director, laureate of the Golden Mask, Yuri Muravitsky, took up the work.

“The main question is how to stage the play the way Chekhov intended? – says the director. – This is a kind of challenge, a test that you want to overcome. The play contains a serious dramatic conflict. When you start working with her, this conflict drags on, and the lightness inherent in Chekhov’s texts disappears somewhere. I was trying to figure out how to preserve the humor that is there, ”he notes.

In the interpretation of Muravitsky, the atmosphere of a secular reception reigns in the family estate: all the action from start to finish takes place on the red carpet, spread along the steps that go up, to where the musician sits at the piano. Ranevskaya, Gaev, Lopakhin, Charlotte and the others are desperately having fun – they re-sing the pop hits of recent years, throw questions and remarks of regret into the audience. Somewhere in the same hall, the cherry orchard is conventionally located. According to Yuri Muravitsky, this slightly kitschy manner is the key with which he tried to open the text.

“Variety aesthetics was not chosen by chance. She maximally emphasizes theatricality and comic character of the characters. It seems to me that the direct contact of the actor with the audience is important – the monologues are not pronounced into a void, the pop format allows you to approach the microphone, speak directly to the audience. It reveals the characters in a more interesting way, ”says the director.

Apeksimova, Grishin, Selyutina

I agree with Yuri Muravitsky and Irina Apeksimova – both as the director of the Taganka Theater and as the performer of the role of Lyubov Ranevskaya. Her heroine runs barefoot on the red carpet, dances and jokes – as if it is not her estate that is in decline, she does not have many unhappy years behind her.

“It was a pleasure for me to cooperate with Yuri, we understood each other immediately,” she says. – And it’s great to work in such a cool company of actors. It is happiness when they hear and feel you on stage. And this is not just a performance that we play for the audience, it is an interesting experience for all of us. “

The role of the merchant Yermolai Lopakhin, who acquired the family estate of Ranevskaya, was given to Alexei Grishin. For him, this is the second role in the Taganka Theater, he plays Mizgir in The Snow Maiden. He has known Irina Apeksimova for a long time – they studied together on the course of Oleg Tabakov at the Moscow Art Theater School.

People’s Artist of Russia Lyubov Selyutina reincarnated as the eccentric governess Charlotte Ivanovna. This “Cherry Orchard” is not the first for her: in the famous production of 1975, she played Varya, Ranevskaya’s adopted daughter. In the role of the forever young brother of Ranevskaya Leonid Gaev, the viewer will see the Honored Artist of Russia Alexander Rezalin. He almost always retains a serious expression, but almost every line of his makes him laugh.

The soul of the estate – the lackey Firs – performed by Sergei Veksler is still so full of strength that it costs him nothing to lift his master Gayev into his arms. Dunyasha (Nadezhda Flerova) in an elegant black dress looks more like an aristocrat than a maid. One of the most interesting supporting characters is Ranevskaya’s lackey Yasha (Pavel Levkin). From the foreign travels of his mistress, he brought a luxurious French accent.

Unexpected ending

In general, in this performance it was important to maintain the French intonation, the director believes: in the first act, Ranevskaya comes from Paris, and in the finale she leaves there. The music for the production was written by the French composer Louis Lebe, who worked on Yuri Muravitsky’s hit last year – the play “Le Tartuffe. Comedy”. In addition, according to the director, the combination of the tragic and the comic makes Chekhov akin to the author of Tartuffe, the famous French playwright Molière. They both raise the topic of the infantilism of the characters, who, because of it, lose everything. This infantilism deserves attention, Muravitsky is sure.

One scoundrel and a lot of foam rubber. How the Taganka Theater performance “Le Tartuffe. Comedy”

The decoration in the form of a red carpet was invented by the artist Nana Abdrashitova, with whom Muravitsky had already worked on Chekhov’s play. In 2018, the Stanislavsky Electrotheatre hosted the premiere of The Seagull by Yuri Muravitsky, Yuri Kvatkovsky and Kirill Vytoptov – each director staged one act in his own manner.

As for The Cherry Orchard, Muravitsky made a surprise for the audience and changed the ending to a happy ending so that there was no doubt that a real comedy was being played out on the stage.

The premiere of the performance will take place on April 23rd and 24th.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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