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Category: The Cherry Orchard Reviews
Article Date: April 26, 2002 | Publication: San Francisco Chronicle | Author: Edward Guthmann

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Tragedy. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates. Directed and written by Michael Cacoyannis. (Not rated. 137 minutes. At the Lumiere and the Rafael in San Rafael.)

Alan Bates and Charlotte Rampling are the brave stars of this pretty but sterile adaptation of the Anton Chekhov stage classic. Directed by Michael Cacoyannis, who made the classic "Zorba the Greek" nearly 40 years ago, it's a respectful effort that feels constantly in need of a blast of oxygen.

Rampling, so brilliant in last year's "Under the Sand," is miscast as Madame Lyubov, a naive and penniless aristocrat who returns to her family's country estate after a long absence. Devastated by the drowning death of her young son, Lyubov had sought refuge in Paris, only to be fleeced and abandoned by a lover.

Back home at her estate, the site of a large and valuable cherry orchard, Lyubov exults in the familiarity of home and family and contemplates the sad decline of the ruling class, which suffered a blow in Russia's liberation of serfs.

Lopakhin (Owen Teale), a former serf, insists that Lyubov and her brother Gaev (Bates) divide the estate into plots, chop down the cherry trees and build villas. They're doomed otherwise, but tradition and love for the estate renders them immobile.

"If only I could forget my past," Rampling sighs.

Scenes are underlit, Cacoyannis lacks any sense of rhythm or pacing, and "The Cherry Orchard" drags along in a dazed and enervated, drenched-in-the- past numbness. One wants to slip a quarter in the slot to make it move more quickly.

Some of the actors rise above the sludge: Teale as the vulgar but shrewd Lopakhin, Katrin Cartlidge ("No Man's Land") as Rampling's over-controlling adopted daughter and veteran actor Michael Gough as an ancient servant who looks ready to keel over any second -- from boredom if not from old age.


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