The Best of Virtual

By Marcina Zaccaria . . .

Embracing the virtual format, chekhovOS/an experimental game/ offers live, interactive performance, reimagining The Cherry Orchard.

Jessica Hecht, Anna Baryshnikov, Anna Bortnick, Darya Denisova, Jeffrey Hayenga, Melanie Moore, Nael Nacer & Mark Nelson are jubilant, spinning scenes from The Cherry Orchard that would rival anything that you might see on Broadway.  With Mikhail Baryshnikov as Anton Chekhov, we are transported to an amazing land where the troubles of medicine and art never really find a resolution.

Conceived and Directed by Igor Golyak, this production has a giddy frivolity that supersedes a morose world where Chekhovian characters sometimes retreat.  The outstanding footage of Mikhail Baryshnikov serves as a type of anchor, allowing Russian speech and English subtitles to subtly tell a story accompanied by melodic, dream-like music, beckoning us to a time zone somewhere between the 1900s and present day.

Returning to Arlekin’s roster of talent is the actress, Darya Denisova, from State vs. Natasha Banina.  In the last virtual performance, she was a prisoner awaiting time on death row.  This time, she is a comical game show host, embodied in the character of Natasha Prozorov from Chekhov’s Three Sisters.  Wearing a beautiful, floor length skirt, having exaggerated, rolled hair, she asks audience members to chime in on their cell phones to vote on what Chekhovian story we might watch – The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, or Three Sisters.  We immediately get the answer – The Three Sisters.

The mix-master creating this live, interactive event is always attentive.  With over 500 audience members on screen participating in real timeit is astonishing.  chekhovOS /an experimental game/ is produced by Igor Golyak and Sara Stackhouse of Arlekin’s Zero Gravity (zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab.  The visual images confound as often as they amuse.  The characters, stuck in the world of The Cherry Orchard believe they can find their way out.  The audience is led to believe that they could change fate.  Just by pressing the right button on my cell phone, even I might be able to put the characters of The Cherry Orchard at privilege, again, after years of loss and heartache.

From time to time, pink confetti dazzles the eye from on top of the screen.  It creates the kind of subtle magic that makes this 90 minute offering so appealing.  Meanwhile, the players attempt to break through their black and white world.  Speaking about tuberculosis and the changes in weather that predictably trouble a rheumatic, the words of Anton Chekhov spoken by Mikhail Baryshnikov are grounding in this heightened, zero gravity state.

As NYC audiences make their way back to the cabarets and larger venues, chekhovOS is the best that virtual can offer, with inspired acting and the extraordinary sense of agency to get into the chat and vote live.  The spirit and vision of this production is truly unparalleled.

chekhovOS/an experimental game/ is running in May and June.  Additional information can be found at