The Orchard—conceived, adapted, and directed by Ukrainian-born director Igor Golyak—officially opens June 16 following previews that began June 7 Off-Broadway at The Baryshnikov Arts Center. The production had originally been scheduled to start performances May 31 but was postponed due to COVID-19 cases within the company. The limited run continues through July 3.
The Orchard, available for in-person audiences and virtual theatregoers, is an adaptation of the Anton Chekhov-penned play, translated by Carol Rocamora with additional material developed by Golyak.
The cast is led by Jessica Hecht (Fiddler on the Roof, Breaking Bad) as Ranevskaya with Juliet Brett (Fosse/Verdon), Darya Denisova (State vs. Natasha Banina), Elise Kibler (The Heidi Chronicles), John McGinty (Children of a Lesser God), Nael Nacer (chekhovOS), Mark Nelson (Angels in America), and Ilia Volok (Mission Impossible, Indiana Jones). Mikhail Baryshnikov plays both Anton Chekhov and Firs.
Audiences in the theatre enter an immersive environment where perceptions, illusions, and reality collide as a family in crisis tries to process their future. The production features scenic design by Anna Fedorova, costume design by Oana Botez, lighting design by Yuki Nakase Link, projection design by Alex Basco Koch, sound design by Tei Blow, music composition by Jakov Jakoulov, emerging technologies design by Adam Paikowsky, robotics design by Tom Sepe, and hair and makeup design by Anna Hrustaleva. Seth Gore is the director of American Sign Language.
The virtual experience invites audiences on a journey through a three-dimensional property that has been abandoned and is in foreclosure. Audiences can explore magical rooms where they uncover echoes of a past life, including Chekhov's letters, memories, and, ultimately, the play, live, in progress at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The creative team includes virtual scenic design by Fedorova—in partnership with Alex Coulombe of Agile Lens, Athomas Goldberg of Lifelike & Believable Animation Design, and Unreal designers Daniel Cormino, Yu-Jun Yeh, and Emily Cho—with virtual sound design by Alexey Prosvirnin and interactivity design by Sasha Huh.
The in-person and online versions run concurrently for each performance. Partway through the performances, the two versions intersect and the worlds come together.
“This is a story about the delicate relationships at the center of a family facing the end of the world as they know it,” said Golyak in an earlier statement. “We are living through an unimaginable time of change and destruction with the war in Ukraine and with the pandemic. As humans, we are perpetually losing our cherry orchards, losing our worlds. This play is about us today."
In February 2021, the Baryshnikov Arts Center and Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation co-presented The Cherry Orchard: A New Media Workshop.