Friday, July 3, 2009

when life is not a drama


When life is not a drama or
a comedy, it’s farce farce
that though we try we can’t ignore
when falling on our arse.
When people hear this in a rumor,
often quite distorted,
it stimulates their sense of humor
as soon as it’s reported.
Embarrassment like this becomes
for us the bottom line
that’s cherished by our so-called chums
who love to see us whine,
and though they seem to sympathize
once we have bruised our butt,
they really laugh and analyze
the farce’s final cut
that’s edited to show how we
at best are merely clowns,
and really cannot wait to see
the mirth of our meltdowns.

Inspired by David C. Nichols’s review of a performance at the Theatrum Botanicum in Topaganga of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” by in the LA Times, July 3, 2009:
Anton Chekhov famously described "The Cherry Orchard" as "not a drama but a comedy, in places almost a farce." That is exactly how it blossoms at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum. Chekhov's final masterwork receives a gracefully rewarding production that uses aerated humor and inventive pertinence to illuminate its heartbroken core. Freely adapted by Heidi Helen Davis, who also directs, beautifully, and Ellen Geer, Chekhov's pre-revolutionary Russian aristocrats wind up outside Charlottesville, Va., circa 1970. Despite fleeting awkward moments, the narrative ploy is impressive, generating unusual accessibility and emotional fluidity. The ex-serfs of the original are here descendants of slaves. Upper-class heroine Ranevskaya becomes Lillian Randolph Cunningham (Geer, in a delicate, luminous turn). Returning home after years abroad, Lillian cannot escape the tragedy that haunts her, even while she avoids facing the imminent auction of her family estate. As if enabling her denial, Lillian's brother, Gates (William Dennis Hunt, atop his game), elegizes incessantly, even to bookcases, without much meaning, as noted by his niece, Anna (a fine-tuned Willow Geer), and everyone else. Conversely, starchy Velina (the superb Tippi Thomas), Lillian's adopted second daughter, quietly deplores Mama's spendthrift impulses and awaits a proposal from well-to-do Lawrence Poole (a towering Steve Matt). The grandson of owned men who worked this plantation, Lawrence's calmly ruthless capitalism suggests one by-product of the civil rights movement. Another is the smoldering radicalism of eternal student Terrence Moses (Marc Ewing, aptly intense), once the family's tutor, now smitten with Anna and perhaps the clearest-eyed person in the play.

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 7/3/09

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