by Walter Chaw
THE CHERRY ORCHARD (2000)
starring Tushka Bergen, Frances de la Tour, Charlotte Rampling, Gerard Butler
screenplay by Michael Cacoyannis, based on the play by Anton Chekhov
directed by Michael Cacoyannis
Written at the end of his life in 1904, "The Cherry Orchard" is the last of Anton Chekhov's great masterpieces, so ethereal it verges on the surreal and so circular it approaches the ineffable and the serene. The work is as balanced between its condemnation as it is winsome in its distillation of a lifetime spent in observation. By turns, it is also humanistic and mordantly funny, capturing a period of time (just prior to the Russian Revolution of 1905) in a way that perhaps no other play ever has any other period. Produced under some duress from Moscow Art Theater co-founders Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, Chekhov began work on "The Cherry Orchard" in 1903--putting off the MAT pair with vague promises of a new farce or vaudeville. What he finally presented was what Stanislavsky feared: "...Instead of a farce again we shall have a great big tragedy."
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