The Cherry Orchard
by Anton Chekhov
The Cherry Orchard Introduction
In A Nutshell
Anton Chekhov was a Russian writer famous for his short stories and plays. The Cherry Orchard was his last play, produced by the famous Moscow Art Theatre shortly before his death in 1904.
You may have heard that Chekhov was a doctor. He started writing to support himself during medical school, and you can see the bedside manner in his writing. He's a man who has seen a lot, and thinks of people with a mixture of affection and ridicule. You can certainly see this side of him in The Cherry Orchard, which depicts an aristocratic Russian family that loses their ancestral estate because they can't pay the mortgage.
Many consider The Cherry Orchard Chekhov's greatest play. It is a beautiful example of Chekhovian style: the mixture of comedy and tragedy, a form that avoids melodrama by setting the most exciting events offstage, and the detailed characterization that makes Chekhov an actor's dream.
Why Should I Care?
Imagine there is a beautiful park in your neighborhood. It's owned by one family and walled off from everyone else. But the family is almost never there; the park decays because they can't pay for its upkeep. Should the rest of the community be able to make use of that space?
Now think of the most beloved place in your hometown: a field, a patch of woods, a city block, the family home. You played there. You had your first kiss there. A million moments that make you you happened there. Fast-forward a few decades and someone wants to take this spot away from you. Obliterate it. Maybe turn it into a parking lot or a hotel. No one will ever know that this special place was there but you, and once you die, that's it. Would you fight for it?
These two scenarios play into The Cherry Orchard. This play is about the relentless march of time and the way people handle change. Some profit by it. Some go kicking and screaming. And others are left behind.