Roundabout Production of Chekhov Classic Reviled by Critics
Last Sunday, The Cherry Orchard had its official opening night at the American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production. This revival of the classic work by Anton Chekhov has been adapted into a new English version by the young playwright Stephen Karam, whose past plays include Sons of the Prophet, The Humans, and Speech and Debate, all of which were also produced by Roundabout. This production is directed by Simon Godwin, a British director who is making his Broadway debut with this show. Hopes were high for this revival, in large part because of the beloved cast. In the role of Ranevskaya, Lyubov Andreyevna is Diane Lane, best known for her roles in films such as Unfaithful, Man of Steel, Under the Tuscan Sun, Cinema Verite, and Trumbo, and who also appeared in the 1977 production of The Cherry Orchard as a child actress. The cast also includes Chuck Cooper (Amazing Grace, Act One, Romeo and Juliet) as Simeonov-Pischik, Boris Borisovich, Tavi Gevinson (The Crucible, This is Our Youth) as Anya, John Glover (Death of a Salesman, Macbeth, Waiting for Godot) as Gaev, Leonid Andreyevich, Joel Grey (Cabaret, The Normal Heart) as Firs, and Celia Keenan-Bolger (Peter and the Starcatcher, The Glass Menagerie) as Varya. Despite this all-star cast in an adaptation by a promising playwright of a classic work, the critics were unanimous in their dislike of the show.
Upon the show’s opening, critics far and wide announced their disappointment with the quality of the production. Ben Brantley from The New York Times began his review by calling the show “terminally confused,” and concludes his review by declaring the show is full of enigmas, but that they are not worth losing sleep over. David Cote from Time Out New York also hated the show, but took more issue with the source material from Chekhov than the choices made by director Simon Godwin or the actors’ performances. Jeremy Gerard from Deadline also gave the show a negative review, calling it a mixed-bag production that fails to find a consistent tone, although he does give a nod to Karam’s smart, economical adaptation. David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter calls the revival a thudding failure, despite remarking that he had very high expectations for this adaptation from the wonderful writer of The Humans. Matt Windman of AM New York called the production disjointed, flat, and wholly ineffective. It is rare for critics to be so unanimous, but it is disheartening when their agreement is regarding the ultimate failure of a production.
An Unpromising Box Office Report Thus Far
In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending October 16, 2016, The Cherry Orchard brought in a weekly gross of $323,836, which represents 45.78% of its gross potential. That was the worst performance week of its run to date, perhaps made worse by the number of complimentary tickets given to reviewers in the press performances leading up to opening night. Still, the producers are likely regretting giving away free tickets to those individuals, who went on to write a series of scathing reviews that will decidedly not make up for the lost ticket revenue incurred by those complimentary seats. To date, the average percentage reached of gross potential has been 51.87%, so even with the high anticipation due to the recognizable cast and promising adapter, audience members were not demonstrating a vast amount of interest in the revival. This past week, with a top ticket price of $252.00, the average paid admission was $58.18, and the audience was filled up to 95.3%. The show is scheduled to run until December 4, 2016.
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