Madame Ranevskaya returns to her decaying estate in pre-Revolutionary Russia after an exile in Paris. The estate and its beloved cherry orchard are threatened by Ranevskaya's financial problems, and no one seems able to do anything about it.
The play takes place on the estate of Madame Ranevsky, the matriarch of an aristocratic Russian family that has fallen on financial hard times. She faces the possible loss of her family's magnificent cherry orchard.
The play is populated with interesting characters: Lopakhin, a wealthy neighbor whose father was the serf of Madame Ranevsky's father; Firs, an aged servant who longs for the "old days"; Trophimof, a student with lofty ideas; and more. There is a great deal of conflict among the characters.
"The Cherry Orchard" is about people dealing with very personal conflicts and crises while larger socioeconomic changes are going on around them. The orchard of the title is a memorable image that is well handled by Chekhov. The play contains some really effective dialogue, such as old Firs' reflection on the apparently lost art of making dried cherries. This is definitely one classic play that remains compelling.
What I like most about Chekhov is that he doesn't simplify his characters. He's a realist in this sense. Lopahkin and Trophimof each have admirable and detestable characteristics, just like you and I. While it may be set in the tumultuous period prior to the Russian revolution, the ideas and the discussions this play provokes are timeless.
What saves 'Orchard' is the merciful fact that it was written by Chekhov and not Shaw. Whatever his overall conception of the play's weighty themes - the decline of the aristocracy; the new economic power of former serfs etc. - Chekhov is simply incapable of writing mere mouthpieces, and every character, no matter how monstrous, limited, avaricious, delusive or paralysed (in action or mind), is suffused with the kind of life (flawed, egocentric, perhaps, but human) for which he had a unique, sympathetic, though always honestly satirical eye. it is a tough task to make an audience empathise with a group of silly former slave-owners, but death, loss, change, poverty, personal failure and disappointment are things we have all felt, and we would probably be lying if we couldn't find something of ourselves in most of the characters (I, worryingly, found myself most drawn to the snobbish, immature, enndearingly gauche Gaev).
There are too many emotionally loaded, privileged and enigmatic moments for characters to be simply straw targets, and the play is shot through with poignant autobiographical resonances (it was Chekhov's last, written when he was terminally ill).Read more ›