Sometimes we go to the theater to be entertained and there’s nothing wrong with that! But sometimes we are lucky enough to learn at the same time. If you are seeking mere entertainment, don’t go see this show. However if you are seeking a thought-provoking, socially conscious, and morally engaging piece of theatre please go see Breitwisch Farm by Jeremy S. Kamps. Based on Anton Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard, this play is a firecracker brought to us Esperance Theater Company.
Doing a modern adaptation of a classic work is always dangerous. But in this case, it pays off ten-fold. For a full description of the Cherry Orchard please see (http://www.sparknotes.com/drama/cherryorchard/summary). But, Kamps play asks what happens when Web returns home to find that his mother’s farm in Wisconsin is in danger of being foreclosed upon? To his surprise and dismay, no one seems to care or take it too seriously. Web does not plan on staying too long but in comes Tai, a youthful idealist who captures his heart. On the farm we also meet Dolores and her son Oscar, immigrants from Mexico whose father was deported five years ago. Oscar has the potential to attend college on a full scholarship because of his academic and athletic prowess, but that comes to an dramatic end when racist teenage boys cripple him because of his ethnic origin.
Chekhov was primarily concerned with the disappearance of the middle class. This play deals with our loss of agriculture and how we treat farmers, especially migrant ones. There are other story lines and themes that emerge throughout the play, such as fracking, human rights and political tensions. Weaving all these issues together into one play seems daunting, but playwright Jeremy S. Kamps does a masterful job of joining these events together like a skilled seamstress.
But what’s a play without its actors? Nothing! The cast is stellar. There is not one weak link in this knockout production. The chemistry between Joe Tapper (Web) and Danata Esperanza (Tai) are breathtaking and heart-wrenching at the same time. Their scenes moved me to tears beyond words. Alejandro Rodriguez is powerful as Oscar. His journey from arrogant youth to a leading young man is praiseworthy. Equally as impressive is Maria Peyramaure as Dolores. She is simply stunning and no other words are needed. I could say something flattering about all the actors in this gorgeous cast, but for the sake of brevity I will keep it short.
Simply put, you MUST see this show. It is awe-inspiring, meaningful, and eye-opening. If this is a taste of what Esperance has to offer us; timely socially conscious theater, I say bring it on in abundance. Thanks to them my belief in the transformative power of theater was reaffirmed. They say that “their roots run deep”. After seeing this wonderful production, I couldn’t agree more. This is a prime example of affordable, outstanding theater offered in the off off broadway community. And if you can’t afford it, they are generous enough to offer community tickets-free tickets-for those who otherwise might not be able to afford a night at the theater. This is a must see show and certainly a profound example of Theater That Matters.
Breitwisch Farm runs now through March 16, 2010 at Town Stages 221 West Broadway. http://www.esperancetheatercompany.org