by Lynn on July 2, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Jackie Maxwell Studio, Shaw Festival, Niagara- On-the-Lake, Ont.

Written by Sarena Parmar

Directed by Ravi Jain

Designed by Camellia Koo

Lighting by André du Toit

Original music and sound by Debashis Sinha

Cast: David Adams

Shawn Ahmed

Neil Barclay

Rong Fu

Krystal Kiran

Jani Lauzon

Andrew Lawrie

Jeff Meadows

Sarena Parmar

Sanjay Talwar

Kelly Wong

A faithful rendering of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard with a decidedly Canadian-Sikh-Punjabi slant with a few well-placed comments on Indigenous people and their land too. A beautiful production directed by Ravi Jain.

The Story. Set in the Okanagan Valley, May 1975. The Basran family’s cherry orchard must be sold in order to pay off the family’s debts. Loveleen (Lolly or Lovely) Basran, the matriarch of the family, has been in India for five years living with a man who seems to need her money and she feels beholding. She has been missed on the farm because she knows how to keep the books in order and fix the farm machinery.

She finally comes home where her daughter Barminder has been tending the farm. Her other daughter, Annie has been trying to find her way. Waiting for them are various hangers-on: Lolly’s simple minded brother, Gurjit and Michael Lopakin, a rich man who no one takes seriously. He grew up on that farm as a servant and has become quite successful in business.

Michael offers that the family can solve their money problems if they chop down the orchard and build cabins so weekend campers can rent them. They won’t hear of it because the cherry orchard has been in the family for years and it’s celebrated. Charlie ( a woman) is a worker on the farm who’s Indigenous, so  every time the family talks about owning the land, Charlie is able to add irony about who owned the land first before it was taken away from the ‘original owners,’ the Indigenous peoples.

The Production. Camellia Koo has created a homey environment with rugs, worn furniture, knick knacks and other indications that a family has lived there a long time.

Director Ravi Jain knows how to use the theatre-in-the-round space of the Jackie Maxwell Studio.  Jain ensures that the audience sees each scene clearly without any view being blocked for the important bits. He has established that this is a family who love each other, although they are frustrated by each other occasionally.

Barminder (Krystal Kiran), Annie (Sarena Parmar) and Gurjit (Sanjay Talwar) are certainly frustrated with Lolly’s (Pamela Sinha) reckless spending and lack of awareness of how dire the circumstances are for the family.

Pamela Sinha has a lovely grace and sophistication as Lolly. She is irresponsible with money but is so ingratiating as a character and genuinely so open-hearted to a fault that you sympathize with her. You ache for Barminder because she is waiting anxiously for Michael (Jeff Meadows) to propose though you never get the sense they love each other. Krystal Kiran is affecting in her scene with Jeff Meadows who plays Michael as an awkward, gauche man who just wants out of there rather than propose. Ravi Jain draws all the anxiety out of that scene until the last moment. Beautifully done.  Every member of that family seems on high emotional alert. Sarena Parmar plays Annie with a gentle resignation.

Sanjay Talwar plays Gurjit as a common-sensical thoughtful man. That seems at odds with the fact that he’s described as a boy/man Peter Pan who never really has grown up, but found he plays a decent man in the end.

Comment. Sarena Parmar has used Anton Chekhov’s classic play, The Cherry Orchard to frame a story about her grandparents in 1975 in the Okanagan Valley. She has tweaked some of her story that is a bit different from Chekhov’s and I think the changes are affecting and add a new dimension to that caring family. This is her first professional play. Quite impressive.

Produced by the Shaw Festival

Opened: June 20, 2018

Closes: September 1, 2018

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.


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