"The Cherry Orchard" at Butler, February 24-27 

Butler University Theatre, Lilly Hall, February 24-27

Directed by Elaina Artemiev

A babe in these woods, I saw Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard for the first time last Wednesday and was impressed, not for the first time, with the mature performances of Butler students. Though director Elaina Artemiev cut this beautiful ensemble piece from three and a half hours to two, the story feels complete and the actors are unhurried. From the anticipated return of Madame Renyevskaya to the family's mass exit from their estate, we are engaged with the very idle rich. They linger lovingly, often ridiculously, over childhood memories and can discern cheap perfume in the air, but are incapable of balancing a checkbook. Like the graceful swing positioned center stage during the play's middle, Artemiev's work is an enjoyable balancing act between Chekhov's intended humor--the squeaky-shoed lackey and the woefully blunt matriarch--and the tragic air that surrounds them and everyone in between. With white curtains, bleached plank floors, and pale blossoms scattered onstage, Kyle Courter's set denotes the icy end of aristocratic life. Rachel Kress' pristine period costumes place the story definitively and elegantly at the turn of the 20th century. Still, The Cherry Orchard subtly reminds us of the 21st century gentry who, by contrast, seem in no danger of relinquishing wealth or privilege. 940-9659; www.butler.edu/theatre

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