On the one hand, this last play by Chekhov is rightly described by the author as a comedy. Madame Ranevskaya and her family are laughable in the way that they continue to maintain their aristocratic attitudes to ownership and work in a world that is fast leaving them behind. On the other hand, Chekhov sees clearly how the world is changing, how capital now rules in place of privilege. While this to some extent anticipates the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 when the aristocracy lost its last vestiges of power, it also suggests Chekhov's sadness at the loss of stability and beauty, symbolized by the cherry orchard. As Trevor Griffiths says, ‘the play is objectively comic and subjectively painful’. The play is also remarkable, because, even more so than in Chekhov's other pieces, hardly anything happens in terms of dramatic action. Stasis rather than action becomes a possibility for modern theatre, to be most notably realized in Waiting for Godot. Originally premiered by Stanislavsky (who played Gaev) at the Moscow Art Theatre, The Cherry Orchard is, together with The Three Sisters, one of the most performed Russian plays. Significant recent productions include Peter Brook's in Paris in 1981 and Peter Stein's in Berlin in 1989, and it has been translated by Frayn (1978) and adapted by Van Itallie (1977), Trevor Griffiths (1978), and Mamet (1985).
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Anton Chekhov (1860—1904) Russian dramatist and short-story writer