A Well-Crafted Mirror

Hmm… let’s see. What can I tell you about the Classic Stage Company that you can’t find out by using your smart phone or the computer screen on which you might be reading this? That is the task of modern relevant journalism, isn’t it? To bring to readers an experience they cannot obtain via the interworld? The website offers you all the logistics, facts, and necessary blurbs, how the Off-Broadway space has been open for 40+ years, how it gets terrific and well-deserved reviews, and how the philosophy is to re-imagine classic texts for contemporary times. All of these things are true. And it is also true that a production of Anton Chekhov’s last play, The Cherry Orchard, will run through the good part of December, thus making complete a cycle of the great Russian writer’s works in the East Village’s theater row.

It’s been a good run. The intimacy that the space provides is incomparable and must be a total delight for serious artists. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing partners-in-Classic-Stage-crime-and-more Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard in stunning interpretations of Uncle Vanya and Three Sisters during the cycle. Seeing them here in this tiny magical space versus in film or on TV is similar to seeing a lion in the wild versus a lion at the Bronx Zoo. Great actors (who seem to be attracted to Classic Stage) come alive in ways we haven’t seen here. Their troubles are heavier, their rebellion is fiercer, and their love throbs so hard you can feel their heartbeats in your chest. Here the King and Queen of the Jungle roar. I wonder what kind of barbaric yawp John Turturro will serve up in The Cherry Orchard across from Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest and a story that’s ripe for our times.

The truth is, all of Chekhov’s plays resonate in this post-economic collapse (and still collapsing?) world of fed up-ness and protests and calls for action. Who’s better than Anton for stories involving snapshots of a society about to change or changing and characters that can’t seem to handle it? “Everybody hurts,” says Michael Stipe after (perhaps?) walking out of a Classic Stage Company production a long time ago. And everybody can’t afford mortgage payments so everybody is about to sell an estate or two and everybody is looking for love and meaning in a modern world. Perfect for winter reflection. And cold nights. And vodka. Wonderful and sublime. Vodka. And a well-crafted mirror for our time. classicstage.org

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at alanarts.com and find out about his music at alansemerdjian.com.