For the Love of Chekhov
Bethesda’s Quotidian Theatre thrives on complex plays.
A middle aged woman is losing her home, where she’s raised her children and tended her landscape. The economy goes south, the glory days are over and she has nothing. She is betrayed by someone she trusts. The new owner of her home threatens to tear down all that she’s created. Sounds like something you just read in the daily newspaper, right? Actually, it’s the main plot line of a more than hundred-year-old play.
Bethesda is host to a month-long run of the Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. Patch talked to Jack Sbarbori, co-founder of Quotidian Theatre and director of the current production, which he also translated and adapted.
Asked what the relevance and appeal of the play was today, he answered: “In today’s economy the loss of a home, even though these [Chekhov characters] were not working class people, has some resonance. And the polarization of different sides today in America as far as political views, that you had then in more simplified way . . . As usual with Chekhov, it goes back to the very basics of the human condition.”
Many of the actors in this production have been with Quotidian Theatre since its inception 13 years ago. Steve LaRocque is the male lead as merchant Lopakhin and Jane Squier Bruns plays the downcast estate owner Lyuba. Her daughter Anya is played by Jenn Pommerenke and adopted daughter Varya by Laura Russell. John Decker plays Lubya’s dotty brother Leonid, James Flanagan plays the student/tutor Petya and Amy Rauch plays estate maid Dunyasha. Stephanie Mumford is the quirky and clever governess Sharlotta. Ted Schneider, David Dubov, Danny Brooks, Michael Avolio, Bill Brekke and Don Bruns round out the cast.
The set, designed by Sbarbori, is a small jewel, but didn’t come without its challenges—the stage being small, needing storage space in the wings for props and furniture and the play being four acts.
The costumes, designed by Stephanie Mumford (theater co-founder, actor and another Russian language degree holder), are gorgeous. They include a wide variety of original vintage clothing she’s had in her collection for years, costumes that were purchased specifically for this show and some that were constructed for it.
Asked how the theatre company got its name, Sbarbori explained, “The two major playwrights that we really love are Horton Foot and Anton Chekhov. Reading works on both of them I kept running across this word ‘quotidian,’ referring to how they find the drama in everyday life. And we wanted to do things by them and other playwrights that have the same type of talent.”
“I feel very fortunate to have built the audience that we do have,” he said, “It takes a real honest interest in theater and patience in seeing characters develop. We’re doing theater in a traditional way, only three shows per year because that’s all our resources allow. We never have hoped to challenge the bigger theaters but rather to have a venue to perform plays that we love, and can be really enthusiastic about.”
Quotidian Theatre Company’s production of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard runs through August 7, 2011 at The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda.