chekhovOS /an experimental game/
Presented by Arlekin’s Zero Gravity (zero-G) Lab & The Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation
Inspired by The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov
Conceived & Directed by Igor Golyak
Produced by Igor Golyak & Sara Stackhouse
Starring Jessica Hecht, and Anna Baryshnikov, Anna Bortnik, Darya Denisova, Jeffrey Hayenga, Melanie Moore, Nael Nacer & Mark Nelson
Mikhail Baryshnikov as playwright Anton Chekhov
Program slides are HERE (scroll down)
Review by Kitty Drexel
“Wheel of Morality turn, turn, turn/Tell us the lesson that we should learn.” – Yakko Warner, The Animaniacs
ZOOM — Science fiction is now in black and white Chekhovian color streaming to an internet tool near you. chekhovOS /an experimental game/ only has a few more performances, so check it out before it disappears forever.
There is a brief segment in the Animaniacs cartoon franchise called “The Wheel of Morality” that pokes fun at both game shows and cartoon shows that teach morality while also employing slapstick violence for laughs. In the segment, Yakko Warner turns a large game show wheel while siblings Wakko and Dot watch. Reliably, the spinning wheel lands on a number causing a small computer to print out the episode’s morale. The morale is often silly and almost never applies to the episode. The siblings are then chased off of the lot by Ralph the Guard. We love The Animaniacs in our house for its irreverence.
The virtual morality of Arlekin Player’s production of chekhovOS /an experimental game/ (not to be confused with their last event Cherry OS /an experiment/) is a lot like the Wheel of Morality: the rules are unclear, the narrators are unreliable and the story isn’t linear. You’ll have a great time as long as you have no attachment to the ending. Try to have fun because nothing is certain. Or is it?
In chekhovOS /an experimental game/, audience members interact with the cast and a special narrator (Darya Denisova) of one of Checkhov’s most famous plays. As described on the Arlekin website, chekhovOS /an experimental game/ incorporates elements of video games, film and theatre to decide the fates of its players. We voted to watch a Cherry Orchard variation on June 6.
chekhovOS /an experimental game/ promises the audience autonomy. We’re repeatedly told that only we can save the cherry orchard from destruction. Except Lyuba Ranevsky and Leonid Gayev don’t change their behaviors one bit. No amount of interaction from an audience will rewrite a play’s ending if the players won’t alter their behaviors. In a tale as old as time, the entitled accuse the less fortunate of abuse to avoid confronting their own actions. They aren’t bad; they’re just written that way.
The audience gets a true voice in the chat. Love it or hate it, the chat reigns supreme as Zoom theatre’s greatest boon to a performance. The actors can’t hear us but they can watch the chat flow with commentary. Audience members show support or disapproval with the click of a few buttons. If a character greases the chat by participating too, layers of nuance (and comedy!) accumulate like gritty sediment in a riverbed. Zoom chats should be low stakes.
Our chat took several interesting turns. Our audience was unhappy that chekhovOS /an experimental game/ wasn’t a traditional telling of a Checkhov play (did they even read the website?). They mutinied; the chat was alive with the furious tapping of disappointed boomers. It is strictly bad manners to heckle the cast during a performance. I’m a little surprised that the Zoom manager didn’t toss the hecklers out. The hecklers didn’t ruin the show but they were annoying.
This was a free performance. If it doesn’t pass personal muster standards, you should leave. Your bad behavior is no one else’s problem or responsibility. Theatre is pretend. Pretend you’re having a good time or exit the Zoom.
Mikhail Baryshnikov is in this production and he was great. It’s cool to see him perform as Chekhov. That’s a draw too.
So are the local actors. Please support our local actors. Support them now in this kick ass show so they can come back to live performance to rock your socks off.
Anyhoo, chekhovOS /an experimental game/ is super heckin’ cool. It was fun to plan a Go Fund Me for the Cherry Orchard in the chat. We totally could have saved the orchard! But we ran out of time. Curse you Lopakhin!