A Theatre Buff Reviews The Orchard (After Chekhov)

The talented Serena Parmar whom you may have seen on stage at The Shaw Festival last year, is performing this season in a play she has written, The Orchard (After Chekhov). It’s a refreshing and truly Canadian adaptation of The Cherry Orchard.

5AA04158-AC87-40DD-BDE2-556C2CFC104FThe play addresses a period between May and August, 1975, in the Basran family home in the Okanagon Valley. It’s a time fraught with both celebration and anxiety. The matriarch of the family, Loveleen (Pamela Sinha) has just come home from an extended stay in India. (She fled there, abruptly, after the deaths of her husband and son five years before.). Her absence was a source of distress on several levels. Not only did her daughters, Barminder (Krystal Kiran) and Annie (Serena Parmar), her brother Gurjit (Sanjay Talwar) and her father, Kesur (David Adams) mourn her disappearance, the orchard business suffered while she was away. Loveleen had been the family member with the most astute operations head. As the play opens, Loveleen has just returned and the orchard is under threat of foreclosure. Michael (Jeff Meadows), the son of one of their former fruit pickers, has been encouraging the family to cut down the cherry trees and turn the space into an agricultural RV park. He has even offered to purchase the property.

There are powerful themes that emerge throughout the play: assimilation, racism, resentment, and nativism. They are poignantly explored. A love triangle (with actors Rong Fu, Andrew Lawrie, and Kelly Wong) adds humour as does the commentary from the cowgirl (Jani Luzon). The potential of an engagement between Barminder and Michael adds gentle suspense. The family’s interactions with a neighbour, Paul Anderson (Neil Barclay) and Barminder’s efforts to socailize with her Presbyterian friends illustrate the nuances of ‘the other’.

The Orchard (After Chekhov) is a moving and enganging production. I left the Studio Theatre wanting to become a more understanding and compassionate Canadian citizen. I’m hoping Ms. Parmar is pleased with the impact on her audience.

Bonnie Lendrum is the author of Autumn’s Grace, the story of how one family manages the experience of palliative care with hope and humor despite sibling conflicts, generational pulls and career demands. Autumn’s Grace is a powerful commentary on the need for well-organized and well-funded palliative care in private homes and in residential hospices. It’s a gift to people who would like to be prepared as they help fulfill the final wishes of a family member or friend.