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Anton Chekhov famously insisted that his final play be staged as a comedy. But for more than 100 years now, directors have tended to take The Cherry Orchard’s subject—landowners who cling to nostalgia and self-delusion while dwindling finances threaten their way of life—as sufficient grounds to call dramaturgical bullshit on the Russian playwright. If you’ve seen the play before, odds are you’ve seen the script’s melancholic elements played for maximum, even tragic, effect. But over on Clark Street, directors Christopher Henley and Gaurav Gopalin are insisting on the comedy. And they insist hard, festooning the script’s edges with intentionally distracting bits of filigree fretwork (house-spirits, interpretive dance, audience participation, etc.). Early on, these additions are so flatly asserted they threaten to drag the production into the realm of camp. When, for example, the waifish house-spirits underline each mention of the word “dreaming” in the script by echoing it in unison—with high-pitched, sing-songy voices (“Dreeeaming!”)—the line between dreamlike and airy-fairy wears precariously thin. When serf-turned-businessman Lopakhin (Adam Jonas Segaller) commits a minor faux pas by mentioning how time flies, Henley and Gopalan throw in the sound effect of a ticking clock. Surely a gifted actor like Segaller is capable of making us feel the awkwardness of that moment without such on-the-nose gimmickry. You’ll wish he was allowed a cleaner shot at it, especially when you see how well he does with the play’s climactic scene, in which Lopakhin navigates an emotional minefield of rage, bitterness, elation, and remorse. Happily, by the time we get to that scene, the magical-mystical stuff has subsided enough to produce intriguing motifs that support the onstage action without intruding upon it. To evoke the orchard itself, ensemble members perch atop stepladders and wave bolts of white fabric languidly; as evening approaches, they slowly, almost imperceptibly, lower their arms and heads. And when John Moletress stands behind Richard Mancini’s aged manservant Firs, spreading his arms like the wings of the angel of death, it’s a small, sincere moment without a hint of camp—which is odd, especially when you consider that Moletress spends the entire evening in drag, imbuing the German governess Charlotta with more than a hint of Marlene Dietrich. As Madame Ranevskaya, the matriarch who resists change simply because she cannot imagine it, Lynn Sharp Spears radiates an intelligence and wounded pride that grounds this whirligig production. If she chooses not to shade the role with the comically obtuse, self-deluded quality that other actors have brought to Ranevskaya, the directors have thrown enough slapstick tumult onstage that you probably won’t miss it.