Ukrainian-born Igor Golyak, founder and producing artistic director of Arlekin Players Theatre & Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab has conceived, adapted and directed The Orchard now playing at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The Cherry Orchard has never been more confusing with cutting-edge futuristic technology (love the dog) added to the mix. Carol Rocamora, has translated with additional material created by Golyak.
This version takes an extremely experimental approach, which at times is surrealistically beautiful. This hybrid production includes two simultaneous and intersecting theatrical experiences – a live performance at Baryshnikov Arts Center (450 W. 37th Street) and a separate interactive virtual experience online that audiences can participate in live from around the globe. The hybrid format, offers audiences a journey through a beautifully rendered, three dimensional virtual property that has been abandoned and is in foreclosure. There, audiences can explore and discover magical rooms where they uncover echoes of a past life, now lost, including Chekhov’s letters, memories.The creative team of the online experience includes virtual scenic design by Anna Fedorova, in partnership with Alex Coulombe of Agile Lens; Athomas Goldberg of Lifelike & Believable Animation Design; Unreal designers Daniel Cormino, Yu-Jun Yeh and Emily Cho; virtual sound design by Alexey Prosvirnin; and interactivity design by Sasha Huh.
The play revolves around Madame Lyubov Andreievna Ranevskaya (Hecht) the owner of an estate with a Cherry Orchard of renown fame. Ranyevskaya represents the pride of the old aristocracy, now fallen on hard times. Her confused feelings of love for her old home and sorrow at her son’s death, give her an emotional depth that gives her an inability to understand financial or business matters. Her daughter Anya (Juliet Brett) is in love with Trofimov and her stepdaughter Varya (Elise Kibler), who manages the estate and keeps everything in order. She is in love with Lopakhin, who doesn’t exactly return her feelings. Mikhail Baryshnikov plays her 87-year-old manservant Firs Nikolaevich. Mark Nelson is Ranevskaya’s equally unaware and heedless brother Leonid. Deaf actor John McGinty is Pyotir Trofimov, Anya’s love interest who believes he’s “above love” and represents the new utopian vision of the future; Nael Nacer as the businessman Lopakhin, the grandson of serfs, who advises the family on how to keep away foreclosure. When they refuse to listen he buys the property at auction. Darya Denisova is Anya’s governess Charlotta, performs magic to entertain the others and keeps this play outer worldly. Finally Ilia Volok is a military faction who infringes and calls an impending demise.
The cast is uneven and sometimes inarticulate. Jessica Hecht embodies a women out of touch with reality and herself. She embodies a past long forgotten. Baryshnikov shuffles to and fro and at times is hard to hear, but he adds humor and presence. Mark Nelson seems to be the rock of the play and he gives a subtle nuanced performance, but thanks to the script fades from view.
Kudo to Kuka, the company that manufactures the 12-foot robotic arm and Unitree Go1 who prances around the stage as the family dog (robotics design by Tom Sepe). The projections and live video by Alex Basco Koch, photography by Leanna Keyes, scenic design by Anna Fedorova, Tei Blow’s sound design lights by Yuki Nakase, live and recorded video are sure to be up for awards come next season.
The Orchard, feels like a projection of the past that time keeps on looping and where we can not escape our inability to see our demise.
The Orchard: Jerome Robbins Theater at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, 450 West 37th Street. One hour and 45 minutes, without intermission. Until July 3rd.