WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield High School Theater Department will take on Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” this Thursday, Nov. 19, through Saturday, Nov. 21.
The play focuses on an aristocratic Russian family consisting of a mother, Madame Lyubov Ranyevskaya (Madeline Hudelson); her brother, Gayev (Julian Mazzola); her daughter, Anya (Jesse Zimmermann); and her adopted daughter, Varya (Madeleine Rosenthal), just after the turn of the 20th Century. The family owns a gorgeous estate that includes a unique cherry orchard, but the manor is going up for auction to help pay off the family’s massive debt. They are faced with two options — lose the land or destroy the beautiful cherry orchards to build summer cottages.
Madame Ranyevskaya chooses to deny the problem while Lopakhin (Frank Guerriero), a former serf, interferes and begins chopping down the cherry trees.
A timeless comedy, “The Cherry Orchard” illustrates the cracks in the seemingly perfect Russian aristocracy just as it was beginning to crumble.
“The show itself, I believe, has so many incredible messages and themes that were significant when it was written in 1904 and yet still exist today,” drama teacher and Director Daniel Devlin said. He added that the show portrays “the rise of this new middle class that doesn’t really know who they are, and I see that in America today.”
According to the actors, Chekhov poses challenges for many reasons.
“There’s just a lot of work that goes into it to make things seem like real life,” Madeline Hudelson (Madame Ranyevskaya) said. “I think that’s really special because it’s real life from the 1900s in the Russian aristocracy, which is very different from real life right now.”
“What I’m really proud of is that, first of all, the fact that Mr. Devlin thinks we are capable of such a challenging show,” Frank Guerriero (Lopakhin) said. “We haven’t used the challenge of the show and the impossible nature of Chekov as an excuse for any shortcomings. We’ve owned up to the challenge and said that it is our responsibility to do it right and not to do it like high school students.”
Madeleine Rosenthal, who plays Varya, said that she finds it challenging to capture what Chekov had in mind when he wrote the play.
“It takes place in 1904 Russia, which is something that none of us have ever experienced, so we hope we can do it justice,” she said.
Other featured cast members are: Catie Barry as Dunyasha; Max Wasilewski as Yepikhodov; Alan Fang, as Feers; Abbie Painter as Charlotta Ivanovna; Jonathan Saminski as Semyonov-Pishchik; Nicholas Guerriero as Yasha; Tony Peer as Petya Trofimov; Alex Frisch and Abby Connolly as Passers-by, Alex Cestero as Stationmaster; and Lizzy Allen as the Post Office Clerk.
Members of the show’s ensemble play servants, guests and neighbors. They are: Amanda DePinto, Hannah Haar, Alison Jaruzelski, Bri Litchholt, Noah Plotkin, and Abby Rothenberg.
Behind the scenes, makeup, costumes, lighting and sound, props and the designing and building of the set are done almost entirely by WHS students.
Tickets for “The Cherry Orchard” are $12 each and on sale at https://whstd.booktix.com. Advance purchases are recommended. Any tickets not sold in advance will be available at the door. Tickets are assigned seating.
Performances will take place Nov. 19 at 4 p.m. and Nov. 20 and 21 at 7:30 pm. All shows will be held in the auditorium of Westfield High School, located at 550 Dorian Road.
“I think it’s really special,” Hudelson said. “I think people will enjoy seeing something different.”
Sarah Boyle is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.