Friday, 27 November 2015

The Cherry Orchard Anton Chekov (3.5/5)

First published: 1904
Original title: Вишнëвый сад
Original language: Russian
Translation to English by: Julius West

Page count: 96
GoodReads says: The Cherry Orchard" was the last play written by Anton Chekhov and is widely regarded as one of his greatest dramatic accomplishments. It is the story of an aristocratic Russian woman and her family who return to their estate, a cherry orchard, to oversee the auction of the estate in order to pay the mortgage. The rise of the middle class and the decline of the aristocracy that was prevalent at the end of the 20th century in Russia, and ultimately led to the Socialistic Revolution, are excellently portrayed in Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard".

I say: This is described as a comedy, and indeed Chekhov intended it as such, but I could not find anything comical about it. Elements of irony and folly, yes, but no comedy. On the other hand, I’m not too sure that I would call it much of a tragedy either. Having waited far too long to read this, I am reluctant to say that it was disappointing; it just didn’t live up to my expectations. 

And I didn’t even really have any expectations. 

As a whole, this is the type of play that benefits from discussions about how those who started life at the bottom end up at the top, while those at the top end up at the bottom. I loved the irony of how Lubow has taken her wealth so much for granted she has ended up wasting it on the wrong things. E.g. she is happy to give a beggar a gold coin while her daughter points out that there are servants in the house starving. And even though it is certain that the estate along with the cherry orchard has to be sold one way or another, Lubow, and her brother Gaev, cling so stubbornly to their disbelief that they end up apathetic and powerless to whom and how it is sold. It would all have been terribly depressing had not their impassiveness so provoked me. One minute they’re crying and the next they are spending more money. 

Ugh.

And then you have someone like Lopakhin who, probably because his parents were serfs, has a huge chip on his shoulder causing him to take advantage of the people who have only shown him kindness. Although he may be right in saying that the only alternative is for Lubow to sell the property, his impatience with them, and later on glee, reveals his true intentions. 

It was all a bit much and yet nothing at all...

Having said that, I would love to see this on stage someday.

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