A sensitive and illuminating ‘Cherry Orchard’

Nancy Egeland

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“The Cherry Orchard’’ was Anton Chekhov’s final work and thus his final word, written while he battled the tuberculosis that would claim his life just months after the play’s 1904 premiere. It’s a fitting testament: Like him, it is humane, droll, compassionate, and wise.

The doctor-turned-dramatist was the master of small moments, and no slouch when it came to the big, life-changing ones, either. With Chekhov, the everyday can turn epochal in the blink of an eye. Lifelong hopes, dreams and expectations can be shattered, fulfilled or deferred in a fleeting instant.

In her exquisite production of “The Cherry Orchard’’ at Actors’ Shakespeare Project, director Melia Bensussen holds those moments up to the light, allowing us to contemplate human nature in all its contradictory essence and to consider the poignant spectacle of human beings striving, in their fitful and clumsy way, after happiness.

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