Yellow Ball In The Side Pocket...
Uma Nithipalan, Lee Kissman, Maria O’Brien, and Tom Fitzpatrick (photo: Mike Jansen)
Laist really hates to write these words, but this Sunday night is the final performance of the last show by the Evidence Room company in their Beverly Boulevard home.
Bart DeLorenzo draws the curtain with a simultaneously riotous and poignant staging of THE CHERRY ORCHARD. His ensemble, sharpened into pain by their years of collaboration and their imminent departure from their home, doesn't know whether to laugh or to cry.
This production is noteworthy not just for being the final act of a Los Angeles institution, but also for the layers of double meaning suffusing every line. Every goodbye to the orchard resonates like a goodbye to the theatre. Madame Ranevskaya's failure to take sensible advice and sell the land reads like a failure to negotiate with the building owners. And the sense of exactly what has been lost is breathing on stage.
These words of Chekhov, chestnuts of acting classes, have a bitter freshness in the mouths of the cast. We didn't think it was possible for anyone to read this play as if they'd never read it before, but they have accomplished it. From Ryan Templeton's ditzy dancer Dunyasha to Lauren Campedelli's wryly pragmatic Carlotta (she has somehow resurrected Chekhov's least performable character and made every one of Carlotta's lines funny and important), every actor in this piece, even in the smaller roles, is bringing something new to the lines.
If there's a criticism to be made of the performance, it's that its tuned emotion is so delicate that the actors become inaudible in the back rows. But even that seems like a choice - in the way that Chekhov chose to have some of his writing be disjointed.
The design is beautifully careless, from Lap Chi Chu's elegant, oversized cherry branches to John Zalewski's echoed bird sounds. Barbara Lempel's costumes are forthright, ardent, and not in the least precious. Ken Roht's choreography, both in the transitional dances between acts and the rowdy party scenes, has a lovely madness to it - as if someone's about to knock over a lamp or break their heart on a dusty old table. And the lighting, by Adam Greene and Chris Kuhl is nothing if not frightening.
What gives us hope that DeLorenzo and his company aren't done yet is the essential note of abandon and joy in the last moments of his production. When Dunyasha begins tossing cardboard boxes out the great back doors of the theater's warehouse stage, and letting them tumble down below into the LA night, all the audience could do was laugh. They're definitely not letting the door hit them on the way out.