PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — An original adaptation of “The Cherry Orchard” by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov will debut at The Wilma Theater on April 12. Acclaimed Russian director Dmitry Krymov came all the way from Moscow to head the production, shortly after the war in Ukraine began.
While the play’s monthlong show schedule is set, Krymov’s stay in Philadelphia is undetermined.
After the duration of the show, “I’m going to lay down on my sofa and look at the wall,” he said through a translator. “I don’t think it’s possible for me to go back.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has raged on for six weeks, with no end in sight. Casualties continue to rise daily. The U.S. has agreed to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, and it is estimated that more than 4 million people have been displaced.
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Krymov said he couldn’t have imagined how his life would be turned upside down. He flew to the U.S. to begin working on the play on Feb. 26.
“Turns out that was the last flight from Russia that was normal, comfortable — the way everybody always traveled from Moscow to New York — and then everything changed,” he recalled. “That was a shock.”
“The Cherry Orchard” is a story about a Russian family dealing with the potential foreclosure of their estate. The irony is not lost on Krymov.
“The plot of ‘The Cherry Orchard’ has not been changed. It’s the same as Chekhov’s ‘Cherry Orchard,’ and the main plotline is the loss, incredible loss,” he said.
“I’m the matriarch of the family,” actress Krista Apple explained of her character, Ranyevska. “Some of the choices that I’ve made have perhaps led to this moment where the estate is about to slip through our fingers.”
While the core company of actors is from Philadelphia, the director, designers and others working on the play are native to Russia.
“They are losing their homeland, too,” said Apple. “They are watching an entire country of Ukrainians lose their homeland. And so when you are working on a play about a family on the verge of losing its land, it’s impossible for that to not suddenly mean something more.”
“When we’re working on this and telling this Russian story, it’s really important that we’re honoring their voices, their experience,” added actor Justin Jain, who plays Lopakhin.
Krymov has a green card and a son in the United States. If the war does not cease by the show’s end on May 1, he said he’s going to have to make new life plans for himself.