Tokyo International Players – Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”

Cherry Orchard Shadows The Tokyo International Players (TIP) are performing Chekhov’s play “The Cherry Orchard” at the Tokyo American Clubtoday and tomorrow only. There are matinee performances today (January 28) and tomorrow, and a 7:30 performance tonight.

I went to the opening performance last night and had a great time. I very much like the tragic-comic story behind “The Cherry Orchard”, and it was a great pleasure to see it brought alive by the TIP ensemble cast — every player contributing some truly memorable moments to the performance.

It’s staged in the round within one of the Tokyo American Club ballrooms, with the players entering at different times from all sides. There are some very nice surprises in the direction (by Malcolm Duff) and also in the lighting and music. There’s even one wonderful, crowd-pleasing dance scene that had everybody in the audience clapping along and stomping their feet. And within all that, some moments of real poignancy,

As a big sumo fan, one of the nicest surprises for me personally was seeing Doreen Simmons performing in the role of Firs, the housekeeper. It is the first time I have seen her perform, but I am a huge fan of hers from many years of listening to her color commentary for NHK’s English-language sumo-tournament broadcasts. She’s a brilliant commentator on the sport, and has a obvious love for it that makes listening to her comments during the broadcasts a real joy.

Though she has one of the smaller roles in this play, it’s a role that captures some of the funniest moments in it and also what is perhaps the most poignant moment. She plays the fun parts exhuberantly, giving the performance some of its biggest laughs. And she plays that final moment of poignancy with a genuinely touching sense of warmth and tenderness.

Bravo to everyone in the TIP cast, and to Malcolm Duff and everybody involved in the casting decisions. They’ve put together a performance that’s a pleasure to watch and remember.

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