Diane Lane has returned to Broadway after 39 years — and she should’ve stayed away a little longer.
The movie star, who first stretched her legs in a 1977 production of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” is back on the boards in that very same play. But before you break out the vodka and caviar, know that Lane, despite her magnetism, is woefully miscast in the drab, overwrought Broadway production that opened Sunday.
The fault lies not in the star herself, but in the show. This “Cherry Orchard” has all the energy and innovation of an Institute of Internal Auditors keynote speech.
Lane plays Ranevskaya, the debt-ridden owner of a large estate that’s been put up for sale. But rather than deal with her precarious financial situation, the actress throws lavish parties, lends money to moocher friends and frolics among her acres of cherry trees. Though Chekhov wrote this in 1904, her circumstances have a powerful resonance in today’s America.
But British director Simon Godwin clearly decided to ignore any dramatic relevance and instead turned it into an oafish circus with flat-lining gags and a modern-art museum set that’s straight out of “Beetlejuice.” Sad, considering Stephen Karam, the playwright behind Broadway’s masterful family drama, “The Humans,” did the adaptation.
Even if this had been a sterling staging of Chekhov, Lane would have still been out of place in the role. She fits more comfortably in worlds of glamour and romance.
In 2003’s “Under the Tuscan Sun,” it was eye-opening to see the way Lane’s authority and magical twinkle elevated what would otherwise have been a pretty standard rom-com. Her recent slate of supporting roles in comic-book movies makes us forget just how lovable and intelligent a performer she is.
She reminded us of that four years ago when she successfully tackled the fading cinema crone Alexandra Del Lago in “Sweet Bird of Youth” at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. That play, by Tennessee Williams, was well-suited to her cinematic skill-set. There was no ensemble or subtlety to contend with there — just great big, old Hollywood emotion. Her performance garnered much-deserved acclaim, and propelled her back to the New York stage.
Thus, it’s agonizing to watch an actor of Lane’s caliber be so misused in “The Cherry Orchard” — not to mention her impressive co-stars, including Joel Grey, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Tavi Gevinson, John Glover, Chuck Cooper and Kyle Beltran. They all give it the old college try, but in service of a shiny dud.
So, what should Lane do next? She’d soar as Desiree in “A Little Night Music.” Elsewhere in the Chekhoverse, she’d make a very fine Arkadina in “The Seagull.” Or, best of all, Karam could write a whole new play for her.
Na zdorovie, to that!