REVIEW: The Cherry Orchard

Last weekend, I attended the University of Michigan Department of Theatre & Drama’s production of The Cherry Orchard directed by Dan Cantor. As a frequent attendee of this department’s University Productions, I was interested to see the show they selected for their two-weekend Arthur Miller Theatre slot, especially because I have never seen an Anton Chekhov piece staged.

Overall, I was impressed by the actors. While I have found the season selected for the Department of Theatre & Drama’s University Productions season in the 2023-24 school year to be somewhat underwhelming from a personal artistic preference standpoint, the performances of these students never fail to impress me. Generally, I thought the play was fairly well-directed for the thrust (which incorporates audience members on all three sides, a favorite theatrical layout of mine), but I found myself to be somewhat disconnected from the story and the characters.

I’m unsure if it’s the directing or the translation of Chekhov’s work that I didn’t enjoy. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but regardless of the dramatics occurring onstage, I couldn’t help but feel very isolated from the stakes of the show. I am typically a very engaged audience member – however, this two-hour and forty-minute play failed to keep my attention in its entirety. I did feel that some of the lines felt very heavily prescribed to actors, and I’m curious if line readings were a tool frequently utilized by the directing team in rehearsal.

Admittedly, I struggled with the relationships between the characters. This is not the fault of the actors in any respect – when you select a show for your season that exclusively utilizes eighteen to twenty-three-year-olds, there’s bound to be some confusion when it comes to the ages of certain characters. Typically, these University Productions will utilize hair and makeup design to emphasize the intended ages of each character. I’m rarely a fan of this, but I think a large cast show such as Cherry Orchard would’ve benefitted more from the use of physical differences to emphasize older age. While the script roughly explains each character’s relationships and ages, a little would’ve gone a long way with using design elements to display the intended difference in age.

One aspect of the show I enjoyed was the transitions and scenic changes. These were masterfully and beautifully choreographed, incorporating not only the backstage team but also the cast and onstage musicians. These transitions were accompanied by beautiful lighting and sound design – another highlight of the show. The ensemble work during the show, but especially these unscripted moments, was a clear display of the camaraderie the show’s whole company no doubt shared.

I’m looking forward to attending the Department of Theatre & Drama’s next season, and I am eagerly waiting for the season’s announcement. While the school year is coming to a close, I’m certain that the 2024-25 year will bring a new batch of remarkable theatre, both U-M affiliated and not.


Arlee Bay

Arlee Bay is an arts student who is deeply passionate about theatre, music, and film. She is heavily involved in the student theatre scene on campus and is greatly enthused to continue exploring the remarkable art that Ann Arbor has to offer, both on campus and off. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, arranging flowers, hosting charcuterie nights, and telling people that she didn't enjoy Oppenheimer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *