A synopsis of the play by Anton Chekhov

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 89.

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A production of The Cherry OrchardMADAME RANEVSKY and her daughter, Anya, return home from Paris to find that their family estate is about to be sold at auction for debt. To all the family it is quite unthinkable that they should lose the wonderful cherry orchard whose white blooms are part of their childhood memories. Madame Ranevsky is an irresponsible soul who cannot be made to realize the value of money. Her brother, Gaev, is quite as hopeless where money is concerned. Varya, the step-daughter, is the only practical one, but how can a woman raise money?

Lopahkin, a former serf, has become a wealthy landowner. Out of his admiration for Madame Ranevsky and a genuine affection that remains from childhood days, he suggests that if they will tear down the house and raze the cherry orchard, they can cut the property up into the popular new villa sites. The entire property, he assures them, will promptly be leased and the substantial income it will afford, will enable them to live where and as they please.

Family pride combined with a spirit of procrastination prevents their accepting this suggestion even if their fondness for their cherry orchard would permit their considering its destruction. They continue to believe that some miracle will save their orchard. Thus they drift along until the day set for the sale. Grandmother has sent them fifteen hundred pounds and Madame Ranevsky and her brother feel sure this will serve to redeem the place. When Gaev and Lopahkin return from the sale, however, it is to report that Gaev's paltry sum has been ludicrously insufficient. Lopahkin has bought the place and is full of an immense satisfaction at owning the estate where his grandfather and father had once been slaves.

Now that the inevitable has happened, the various members of the family readjust themselves surprisingly well. Madame Ranevsky prepares to return to Paris to live on the fifteen hundred pounds; Gaev takes a job in the bank; Varya, a position as a housekeeper. Trofimov, the former tutor and "perpetual student," prepares to return to his beloved university. Even young Anya looks forward to taking her independent place in the world. So they separate ... each one intent on his own future. At the last, with characteristic inefficiency, they lock the old manservant, Firs, in the house, believing that he has already been sent to the hospital. The only sound as the curtain falls is the ringing of axes in the cherry orchard.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD was first produced at the Moscow Art Theater on January 30, 1904 under the direction of Konstantin Stanislavsky.

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