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College Theater will present The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov’s comic masterpiece, 8 p.m. March 3-6 on the main stage of the Williams Center for the Arts. Tickets cost $2 for Lafayette students, $3 for faculty and staff, and $6 for the public, and can be purchased by calling the box office at 610-330-5009.

A preview of the play will be presented noon Monday at the Williams Center. Lunch may be brought or purchased for $3.

The Cherry Orchard has been adapted by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet from a literal translation by Peter Nelles. The College Theater production includes an original score by musical director Tom DiGiovanni ’96, continuing a frequent collaboration with College Theater Director Michael O’Neill that began in 1993 with Sondheim’s Assassins, when DiGiovanni was still a student.

“I know his interest and expertise in modern music has grown since that time,” says O’Neill, “so it seemed to me that The Cherry Orchard might provide a great opportunity for him to both compose and conduct music for a play that is poised at the juncture between the 19th century and the period we have come to call ‘modern.’ Tom’s music is imaginative and startling, enriching this deeply poetic and evocative play. And, as usual, his work with our students continues to be outstanding. I can’t begin to tell you what a great pleasure it is to work with him.”

“When the cast wanders out through those familiar exits this evening, I will bid farewell to seniors Ryon Clarke and David Norton, whom I have watched grow and learn for four years,” adds O’Neill. “The Cherry Orchard also marks the last time I will work with seniors Dave Casteletti, who has moved from the orchestra pit to the stage for this production, and Rusty Wandall, dependable as always in the sound booth. I applaud each of these young men, and all the members of this young and talented company.”

The theater’s most famous piece of real estate and the ineffectual aristocratic Russian family unable to close the deal on it are the heartbreaking and hilarious roots of the century-old comic masterpiece. The sparse, idiomatic translation by Mamet(State and Main, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wag the Dog) captures the mood and rhythm of an era’s passing and reaffirms Chekhov’s position at the juncture between naturalism and the great poetic theater he anticipated.

“One of the great things about being in a play like The Cherry Orchard is that the characters are so rich,” says lead actress Jessica Lenza ’05, a double major in religion and music from Hackettstown, N.J., who portrays landowner Lyubov Ranevskaya. “They are real people who don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say. Each line can be read in several completely different ways, so there is a lot of room for interpretation.”

The student notes that she feels privileged to work with O’Neill again after playing the role of Ronnette in Little Shop of Horrors last fall.

“He is a director who gives his actors freedom to experiment, but also knows how to mold them into his vision of the play so that it is a cohesive production,” she says. “The cast is wonderful.We have fun during and outside of rehearsals.Yes, it is a three-hour-a-night commitment, but it’s something I thoroughly enjoy because of the camaraderie and craft.”

The essence of the play is not the plot, according to Lenza, but its commentary on people and life.

“Life is funny and sad and awkward and frustrating and rewarding,” she says. “All of those elements are present in this production.”

Kiira Benzing ’07 (Ridgewood, N.J.) says the role of Lyubov’s daughter, Anya, is very different from her previous ones.

“On the surface Anya appears carefree as she is one of the most spirited characters in the play, yet her inner emotions are not so simple,” she explains. “By analyzing the play, I have discovered that Anya faces two main struggles: holding onto her childhood while trying to enter into adulthood; it is always a challenge to portray two opposite feelings on stage.Developing Anya’s character has been an exciting journey for me, and I have really enjoyed working with Chekov’s beautiful text.”

Rehearsal is always demanding, but every second is worth the time and effort, according to Benzing.

“My fellow cast members are all so talented and they have been wonderful to work with,” she says. “ I am so glad to see the way that the rehearsals have helped us to shape our characters and shine a new light upon Chekov’s classic comedy.”

“Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard is an amazing play because all of the characters are so real,” she adds. “At times the characters expose the most basic emotions, contrasting the times when the inner-workings of their minds are revealed through the complexity of their thoughts and desires.”


  • Director — Michael O’Neill
  • Musical Director — Tom DiGiovanni ’96
  • Technical Director/Scenic Design — Richard Kendrick
  • Lighting Design — Vicki Neal
  • Costume Design — D. Polly Kendrick
  • Sound Design — Rusty Wandall ’04, Ambler, Pa., computer science
  • Stage Manager — Sarah Templeton ’06, Metuchen, N.J.
  • Assistant Stage Manager — Sanda Wijeratne ’06, Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka, international affairs
  • Light Board Operator — Dan Liseno ’07, Clyde, N.Y., biology
  • Sound Board Operator — Adrienne Smith ’05, Paget, Bermuda, economics and business


  • Lyubov Ranevskaya, a landowner — Jessica Lenza ’05, Hackettstown, N.J., religion and music (double major)
  • Anya, her daughter — Kiira Benzing ’07, Ridgewood, N.J.
  • Varya, her adopted daughter — Jessica Zafonte ’06, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
  • Leonid Gaev, her brother — Dave Norton ’04, Kensington, Md., international affairs
  • Yermolay Lopakhin, a merchant — Ryon Clarke ’04, East Thetford, Vt., biology
  • Petya Trofimov — Greg Herchenroether ’06, Pittsburgh, Pa., English
  • Semyonov-Pishchik, a landowner — John Kolba ’06, Chelmsford, Mass., electrical and computer engineering
  • Charlotta, a governess — Marianna Macri ’06, Malvern, Pa., English
  • Yepikhodov, a clerk — Kevin Chysna ’06, Northborough, Mass.
  • Dunyasha, a maid — Emily Becher ’06, Loudonville, N.Y., psychology
  • Firs, a valet — Nikolce Gorevski ’07, Bitola, Macedonia, chemical engineering
  • Yasha, a young valet — Dave Castelletti ’05, Martins Creek, Pa., music
  • A Stranger — Luke Landherr ’05, Preston, Conn., chemical engineering
  • Station Master — Steve Schrum ’05, Flanders, N.J., history

Deck Crew

  • Drew Brown ’06, Windsor, Ontario, economics and business
  • Chris Brungo ’06, Allison Park, Pa.
  • Hurriya Burney ’06, Karachi, Pakistan, economics and business
  • Samantha Lucas ’05, Garden City, N.Y., government and law
  • Mike Saint Germain ’07, Morris Plains, N.J.
  • James Sommers ’05, Clearwater, Fla., chemistry
  • John-Frank Stubits ’05, Nazareth, Pa., economics and business
  • Joe Ungrady ’05, Freehold, N.J., economics and business


  • Trumpet — Tom DiGiovanni ’96
  • Clarinet — Ben Doremus ’07, Hopkinton, Mass.
  • Bass — Emily Green ’04, Central Valley, N.Y., mechanical engineering
  • Clarinet — Lisa Klenn ’06, Quakertown, Pa., psychology
  • Mandolin — Jared Mast ’04, Easton, Pa., art and philosophy (double major)
  • Guitar — Joe Benoit ’04, Middletown, N.J., psychology and music (two degrees)
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