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Theatre / The Cherry Orchard

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The Cherry Orchard (Вишнëвый сад or Vishnevyi sad in Russian) is the last play by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. It opened at the Moscow Art Theatre on 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Although Chekhov intended it as a comedy, and it does contain some elements of farce, Stanislavski insisted on directing the play as a tragedy. Since this initial production, directors have had to contend with the dual nature of the play.


The play concerns an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to their family estate (which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard) just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. While presented with options to save the estate, the family essentially does nothing and the play ends with the sale of the estate to the son of a former serf; the family leaves to the sound of the cherry orchard being cut down. The story presents themes of cultural futility – both the futile attempts of the aristocracy to maintain its status and of the bourgeoisie to find meaning in its newfound materialism. In reflecting the socio-economic forces at work in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, including the rise of the middle class after the abolition of serfdom in the mid-19th century and the sinking of the aristocracy, the play reflects forces at work around the globe in that period.


Things go about as well as you would expect in a Chekhov production.

Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Some performances interpret Gaev this way.
  • As You Know: Lopakhin explaining the fate of the cherry orchard to Ranyevskaya.
  • Broken Bird: Both Madame Ranyevskaya and Varya.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Lyubov and Gaev. This pair stays together almost the entire production, agreeing and arguing together against Lopakhin. Both being deeply attached to the estate, their childhood, and each other, they have a very strong bond.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Averted—it is the first and only time that a gun is present but never fired in a Chekhov play.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • Gaev. He makes a speech about the nobleness of a book cupboard... with a straight face. That's also just the tip of the iceberg! Besides fetishizing the book cupboard, he has an unhealthy obsession with lemon drops and billiards and he provokes his nieces to to shut him up on many an occasion. Played far more seriously when he and Lopakhin return from the auction where the former purchased the orchard, where he's seen in a quite severe Heroic BSoD state.
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    • Pishchik. Goodness gracious, he downs a whole container of pills just for comedy. This man is not sane.
    • Yepikhodov. Besides being referred to as "Catastrophy Corner" the entire play because of his clumsiness, he also frequently starts a sentence not knowing how it's going to... come to a... final... state of being.
    • Scharlotta Ivanovna. The start of the third act has her going into quite the rant about her past as a Circus Brat.
  • Cherry Blossoms: Subverted: not only we don't really see the cherries themselves, but it's mentioned that the trees only bloom every two/three years
  • Circus Brat: As sadi above, Scharlotta. She mentions being an acrobat in the circus her parents work at.
  • Dances and Balls: There's one towards the end. Right after it's finished, Lopakhin tells Ranyevshkaya that he has purchased the orchard.
  • Driven to Suicide: The exact reason why Madame Ranyevskaya was fetched back to Russia by Anya and Scharlotta is this.
  • Fun Personified: Pishchik, save the last act. Although he has a money problem, he is the life of the party. A power player in making the audience think they're watching a looney-toons style comedy, Pishchik can be counted on to keep the good times rolling.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Ranyevskaya, specially due to the death of oldest son Gryscha, who drowned in a river and her suicide attempt
  • Gratuitous French: Pishchik throws some French phrases as the ball begins.
  • Genre-Busting: As said above is a classic story about the first two productions: the first was very sad and melancholic (supported by director Stanislavski), and the audience left the theater deeply moved. The second, supported by Chekhov himself? The audience was laughing so hard the walls shook. So which is it, comedy or tragedy? None can say (though Word Of God claims comedy).
  • Impoverished Patrician: Ranyevskaya, Gaev, Pishchik
  • It's All Junk: Ranyevskaya's estate and the orchard itself serve as a link to her happier childhood. In contrast, for Lopakhin and the other former peasants and serfs, it serves as a reminder of their miserable past. Ranyevskaya isn't really able to let go of the past until Lopakhin buys the estate in a mandatory auction and gets ready to chop down the orchard in order to put summer cottages there, forcing Ranevskaya to find happiness elsewhere.
  • Jerkass: Yasha the manservant.
  • Love Triangle: Yepikhodov and Yascha have crushes on the maid Dunyasha. She leans more towards the latter.
  • Plucky Girl: Anya
  • Old Retainer: Firs.
  • Only Sane Man: Varya.
  • Self-Made Man: Yermolai Alekhseevich Lopajin became rich despite starting as peasant, as a direct contrast with Impoverished Patricians like Madame Ranevskaya, Gaiev or Simeonov-Pischik.
  • Something We Forgot: The play ends with the family leaving their house, accidentally locking the elderly Firs inside. It's strongly implied that he actually passes away on a couch that remains inside.
  • Staircase Tumble: One takes place in Act III. After a verbal spat with Ranyevskaya, Trofimov storms off... and this happens to him.
  • Tsundere: Varya, specially seen when she throws a tantrum and hits the door with her parasol... and then dissolves in awkward apologies as she sees that she has hit Lopakhin on the head.
  • The Idealist: Trofimov. Every word that comes out of his mouth drips with syrupy idealism. Anya, who has a huge crush on him, may have picked up on some of his ideas.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: At Act IV, Anya is not happy when she learns that Lopakhin wanted to start cutting down the orchard when the family is still in the state. She calls him out and he orders for the work to be stopped.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Anya, at age 17, handles the whole plot as gracefully and maturely as she can. In fact, she fetched her mother back from Paris after she attempts to kill herself and then comforts her when she suffers an Heroic BSoD after learning that Lopakhin has brought the orchard.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Expressed by most of the other characters towards Varya and Lopakhin. They don't.