There he is, in a tweed overcoat, smelling of Cognac, with his hair slicked to the right of his face. “I’ve bought the estate where my grandfather and my father were slaves, where they weren’t even allowed into the kitchen,” Lopakhin (Jacob Liberman ’10) cries out to Mme. Liubov Ranevskaya (Liz Sutton-Stone ’10), the former owner of the estate, a woman who took Lopakhin under her wing after her family enslaved his. Lopakhin dreams of chopping down the cherry orchard that his father and grandfather slaved on, celebrating the purchase with tears dripping down his face amidst romantic orchestral swells.
Liberman’s torn expressions of a man grateful to the woman that enabled his success but unable to forgive her family’s wrongdoings present immense conflict for the audience of “The Cherry Orchard.” While Lopakhin’s actions can very easily be dismissed as cruel — he wishes to attack the orchard with an axe and subdivide the land into plots for wealthy businessmen — Liberman’s affability assures Madame Ranevskaya that everything will soon be all right, with or without the estate. The Madame initially tears up at Lopakhin’s words, but she quickly collects herself and continues to trust that Lopakhin would be a great husband for her daughter.
Liberman’s delivery of Lopakhin’s monologue may summon in the tragedy of “The Cherry Orchard” that Stanislavski felt dominated the play as he prepared its first production in Moscow, but the deft interactions between Liberman, Sutton-Stone and a colorful band of festering (Rafa Kern ’11), charmingly clumsy (Andrew Rejan ’10) and seductive (Lizzie Donger ’12) characters keeps the play shuffling between Chekhov’s intended comedy and his artistic supervisor’s tragic interpretations. A beautiful moment.
“The Cherry Orchard” plays at The Whitney Theater this Wednesday through Friday at 7:30pm. Tickets are sold out, but the wait lists are still open on yaledramacoalition.org.