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Chekov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ opens Wirtz Center’s mainstage winter season

EVANSTON -- Anton Chekhov's endearing and everlasting tragicomedy -- in which a family's cross-generational dispute about the future of their beloved estate creates a clash between socialism and capitalism, legacy and reality -- kicks off the winter mainstage season at Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

This version of the Russian playwright’s “The Cherry Orchard” is based on a literal translation by Allison Horsely and adapted by Stephen Karam, the Tony Award-winning playwright of “The Humans,” who has been cited as “among the very best of his generation of playwrights” by New York Magazine. 

Directed by MFA directing candidate Hassan Al Rawas, the production runs from Feb. 1 to 10 in the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston campus.

The Gayev family are sociable, intelligent, caring and hopelessly in debt. Unless they can find the funds, their huge estate, including its renowned cherry orchard, will go to a mortgage auction. The entrepreneurial son of their ex-farmhand offers them a solution, but they balk at his proposal. Racked by indecision and unable to comprehend the huge social changes on the horizon, they spend one last summer on their beautiful country property, conjuring memories of the past to mask their fears of the future.

Director Al Rawas relates plot to his own family history. His grandfather was a chocolate maker in Beirut who lived above the factory with his family. Al Rawas, who grew up in Kuwait City, spent his childhood summers in Beirut, which connected him with his larger family and Lebanese identity. To provide financial stability for their father when the chocolate business slowed down, his grandfather’s sons offered to buy the factory.

“It wasn’t an ideal ending,” Al Rawas said. “The sons turned the factory into a warehouse, which the grandfather continued to live above and had to witness every day. For years he would tell people his own sons robbed him of his life’s work. But there was hope too. It provided him with financial stability and he found peace with it in the end.

“What I hope audiences will take from the Gayev family and the play, is the idea that no matter what life throws at you, whatever is happening in the news or in society, that holding out hope for a better tomorrow can move families through the worst of times,” Al Rawas said.

The Wirtz Center and this production of “The Cherry Orchard” are proud to participate in Chicago Theatre Week with $15 tickets to the Feb. 7, 8 and 10 performances of “The Cherry Orchard.” For more information about special offers on more than 100 Chicago productions, visit the Chicago Theatre Week website.

Chicago Theatre Week is presented by the League of Chicago Theatres with support from Choose Chicago.

Performances of “The Cherry Orchard” are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 for the general public; $23 for seniors (62+) and area educators; $20 for NU faculty and staff; and $6 in advance for students (or $10 at the door). A limited number of $15 Chicago Theatre Week tickets are available on Feb. 7, 8 and 10. 

Tickets and more information are available on the Wirtz Center website. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 847-491-7282 or in-person at the Wirtz Center box office which is located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Box office hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The box office is closed on Sundays and Mondays. 

The Wirtz Center is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts. 

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