“The Cherry Orchard,” Chekhov’s final play and a timeless tragicomedy about how people choose whether or not to respond to a changing world, proves to be less powerful than usual in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s disjointed and flat revival, which stars Diane Lane alongside an accomplished ensemble.
The company has enlisted playwright Stephen Karam (“The Humans”) to pen an awkward English version of the original Russian text and English director Simon Godwin, who is making his Broadway debut. Lane is joined by a diverse ensemble including Joel Grey, Tavi Gevinson, John Glover, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Harold Perrineau and Chuck Cooper.
“The Cherry Orchard” begins with the pampered, self-consumed Ranevskaya (Lane) arriving home after an extended stay in Paris with a lover. Her estate is about to be auctioned to pay off its crippling debt.
Lopakhin (Perrineau), a family friend who has risen up from servant to hardworking businessman, proposes demolishing the cherry orchard and selling plots of land to vacationers, but Ranevskaya and her brother Gaev (Glover) won’t hear of it, and her daughters (Gavinson and Keenan-Bolger) are unable to help.
Godwin’s production is disjointed and wholly ineffective. It is built around a bare visual design that resembles a modern art installation and a costume design in which period attire transitions into contemporary dress. It’s nice to have three live musicians but their featured presence can be distracting. Performers in smaller roles work too hard for laughs, adding to the inconsistency.
Lane makes for a poised, diva-like Ranevskaya, who shows her tender side when alone with Glover. Grey is wonderful as Firs, a lifelong servant who longs for the old days of strict order. Gevinson gives a blank-faced performance that is not so different from her work in “The Crucible” a few months ago. Perrineau, who is 53 years old but looks considerably younger, is a highly excited Lopakhin.
If you go: “The Cherry Orchard” plays at the American Airlines Theatre through Dec. 4. 227 W. 42nd St., roundabouttheatre.org.