I'm unabashedly an Exchange Theatre fan, because Vince Brady, the artistic director, seems to want to produce what Intiman used to be known for producing back in the mists of the seventies and early eighties: classic and solid European plays. You know, the stuff you studied and possibly performed in college, and seldom gets done anymore because it's old, stuffy, and not cutting edge (Uncle! Vanya! The! Musical! coming soon!). Intiman still does big-budget versions of same, maybe once a season. But Exchange keeps it up. The three shows this season were all written in the first twenty years of the last century (disclaimer: I directed one of them.) These are the plays that form the base to 20th century Theatre. And Exchange does a solid production every time.
Exchange's current production of The Cherry Orchard runs through July 10 and you ought to check it out. The individual performances by Doug Moening, Kevin Brady, Heather Hawkins...oh, okay, just about the whole cast, is worth the trip. Stewart Hawk, the director, has assembled a good, solid group of locals (locals...hmmm...inset your own snide snipe at Three Sisters here) who bring that wonderful sense of Russian class vs class, wear-your-emotions-like-a-corsage, oddball comedy that has gone into the lexicon as Chekovian into a simple story with a simple predictable ending that still kept me interested and focussed. Michael Frayn's well-written translation was a great help, although in deference to the previous comments about the Craig Lucas adaptation of Three Sisters, there were no 'fuck's. And yes, it's a comedy in that strange Russian sense of the word. These are funny people, both funny-funny and funny-strange.
And yes, it's at the Bathhouse, that no-nonsense block of brick that has no backstage, poor side sightlines, a 12 foot ceiling, and looks like it's about to fall on your head any minute. So, no flash, no big chandeliers, no huge see-through gazebos, no helicopters, and during the scene changes, actors move furniture. Heavens! But Craig Wollam and Seattle Scenic Studios always managed to do wonders with little budget, and accomplished the same here. It was simple, and left the show to be about the characters. (disclaimer: I recently joined the SSS board.)
This is more of a fan letter than a review, because I think that this is a little theatre that deserves more attention. Go see it yourself.