Broadway Review: ‘The Cherry Orchard’ Starring Diane Lane

Diane Lane, Chuck Cooper, Tavi Gevinson, John Glover, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Harold Perrineau, and Joel Grey.

Actresses love to play Madame Ranevskaya, the enchanting idiot who dithers away the family estate in Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” Film star Diane Lane (best remembered for “Unfaithful”) takes her shot in the Roundabout Theater Company’s Broadway revival of Chekhov’s most beloved play — and proves to be engaging, if not remarkable. Not that anyone really has a chance to shine in director Simon Godwin’s shapeless production.

Physical setting is absolutely critical in this 1904 play, which is about nothing less than the demise of the proud Russian aristocracy and the ascendance of an emergent middle class at the turn of the last century. There are few signs of faded grandeur in Scott Pask’s almost barren set. Ranevskaya’s brother, Gaev (John Glover, always entertaining in the role of John Glover), is forced to deliver his piteous salute to a beloved furniture heirloom by directing it at a cheesy cabinet that belongs in the kitchen.

And while a large window dominates an outside wall, it doesn’t afford us so much as a glance at the magnificent orchard of cherry trees that symbolize all the beauty and grace of the obsolete upper class of a dying civilization.

A stronger directorial statement is made by the casting of African-American actors in the roles of the upstart serfs (rendered “slaves” in this translation by “The Humans” Tony winner Stephen Karam) who have ascended to the new moneyed classes. But not even reliable actors like Chuck Cooper (as a landowner), Harold Perrineau (as the merchant prince, Lopakhin) and Kyle Beltran (as the student, Trofimov) bring any noticeable insights into their roles.

To be sure, some performers hold fast to their ground. Celia Keenan-Bolger (“The Glass Menagerie”) is quietly tragic as Varya, who has been running the floundering family estate in Ranevskaya’s absence. As the entertaining Charlotta, Tina Benko brings some fun into the dreary household, which is also enlivened by the spirit that Susannah Flood brings to that perky maid, Dunyasha.

Joel Grey, as the loyal old servant Firs, is in a class of his own. Ignored and eventually forgotten by the children to whom he’s devoted his life, he stands in the margins, even now, eager to offer his unwanted services — a proud, never pitiful, figure, in Grey’s quietly moving performance.

“The Cherry Orchard” normally brings tears and laughter to the coldest of hearts. But there is surprisingly little emotion stirred by this production — except, perhaps, in the last scene, when Donald Holder’s finely tuned lighting grants old Firs the comfort of darkness.

Broadway Review: 'The Cherry Orchard' Starring Diane Lane

American Airlines Theater; 730 seats; $142 top. Opened October 16, 2016.  Reviewed Oct. 13. Running time:  TWO HOURS, 15 MIN.

Production: A Roundabout Theater Company production of a play in two acts by Anton Chekhov, in a translation by Stephen Karam.

Creative: Directed by Simon Godwin. Sets, Scott Pask; costumes, Michael Krass; lighting, Donald Holder; sound, Christopher Cronin; original music, Nico Muhly; production stage manager, Jill Cordle.

Cast: Diane Lane, Chuck Cooper, Tavi Gevinson, John Glover, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Harold Perrineau, and Joel Grey.

More Legit

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    StubHub Refunds $500,000 to Customers Shut Out by New York Blackout

    Saturday’s blackout in New York had an outsized effect on the city’s nightlife, with Madison Square Garden and the entire Broadway district seeing multiple shows cancelled due to the the power outage. As a result, StubHub has refunded more than $500,000 worth of tickets for cancelled events. According to a statement from the company, the StubHub [...]

  • Warner Music Group Logo

    Warner Music Acquires Musical Theater Indie First Night Records

    Warner Music Group has acquired First Night Record, an independent record label for West End and Broadway musical theatre cast recordings. The company will be overseen by WMG’s Arts Music Division, led by President Kevin Gore. First Night co-founder John Craig will join the Arts Music team under a multi-year consulting agreement to identify and record musical theatre productions in [...]

  • Broadway

    Broadway Back In Biz After Power Outage Ends

    The bright lights of Broadway were back on Sunday morning as midtown Manhattan recovered from a power outage that lasted nearly seven hours in some areas. Social media was full of examples of how New Yorkers rose to the occasion after the power went out on a hot Saturday night shortly before 7 p.m. ET. [...]

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    Power Restored in New York City After Massive Outage Hits Broadway

    UPDATED: Power has gradually been restored to Midtown Manhattan and the theater district after what New York City officials described as a rolling blackout that darkened Times Square and other high-traffic areas on Saturday night. Officials said all power should be restored to the 73,000 customers affected by the outage by midnight ET. Local media [...]

  • Slave Play

    Controversial 'Slave Play' Is Broadway Bound

    “Slave Play,” a controversial drama that examined race and sexuality, is moving to Broadway for a limited run. Written by theatrical wunderkind Jeremy O. Harris, “Slave Play” was a sensation when it ran at the New York Theatre Workshop, drawing such bold-faced names as Madonna, Scarlett Johansson, and Tony Kushner. The show will debut at [...]

  • Mary Said What She Said

    Critic's Notebook: Seeing Isabelle Huppert and Dimitris Papaioannou in Paris

    “Do you miss Paris?” I get that question a lot, but never know what to say. How could I not? The two years I spent in that splendid city covering international cinema for Variety changed my life. “What do you miss most about Paris?” That’s a tough one too. The booksellers on the sidewalk in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content