Friday, July 26, 2013

The Cherry Orchard – Acts Summaries

The Cherry Orchard is one of Anton Chekhov’s most famous plays. I picked this play for Let’s Read Plays (other authors theme), and for my WEM Self-Project. This is the second play I read for WEM, and as usual, I’ll begin with the Acts summaries.


Act One

Act one is an introduction of each characters and their conflicts. Mrs. Ravensky (Lubov Andreyevna) is arriving at the family estate after five years leaving it for other country together with Anya, her daughter. Her husband and her only son had died, while her adopted daughter, Varya, has been staying and managing the estate during her absence. The Ravensky is falling into poverty, they could not pay their debts, and the estate—with the beautiful cherry orchard—is threatened to be sold in an auction.

I get the feeling somehow that Lopakhin (a peasant’s son who becomes a businessman) and Pischin (another landowner) are using Mrs. Ravensky. Lopakhin persuades Lubov to cut off the cherry orchard and build a summer villas to get money; while Pischin keeps asking for a loan to pay his mortgage. Lubov rejects Lopakhin’s idea because she loves the cherry orchard, while she asks Gaev—her brother—to give Pischin the money, despite of her near-bankruptcy.

Beyond that, there’re trivial conflicts of Varya—who is expecting to marry Lopakhin but the man hasn’t proposed to her yet; of Dunyasha—the maid servant who likes to dress like a lady, and is proposed by Epikhodov—the clumsy clerk. Dunyasha is annoyed by this, and seems to be more attracted to Yasha—a young footman whom she hasn’t met for five years as he served Mrs. Ravensky in Moskow. While Anya seems to jolt in joy at the news that Peter Trofimov (used to be her death brother’s teacher) is staying there at the moment.

Act Two

In second act we come to know everyone better. Charlotta—governess who likes to wear man’s hat and carry a riffle—is an orphan and feels lonely in this world where she can’t remember her mother and father. Dunyasha expresses her love to Yasha who reacts so disinterestedly; while Epikhodov carries revolver everywhere and implicitly ‘threatens’ to kill himself if Dunyasha doesn’t react to his courting.

Lopakhin still persuades Lubov of the villas idea, and Lubov still persists to reject, which annoys Lopakhin. In her poor condition, Lubov still can’t resist giving gold changes to a tramp.

Trofimov makes an interesting speech about how idle people are; even the intellectuals do nothing important and don’t know the real meaning of ‘working’. Anya and Trofimov discuss their closer relationship—which Trofimov thinks a ‘vulgarity’, and Anya expresses how her love to the cherry orchard has changed. Trofimov expresses how the cherry orchard bears mush of the history of Ravensky ancestors, and that the future lays onto real action (works). He persuades her to leave that place.

Act Three

The night of the auction, the Ravenskys have a party. Gaev is expected to buy the estate as Anya’s grandmother had granted him the money. He and Lopakhin didn’t appear until late at night, making the whole family in distress.

Meanwhile, Varya doubts that Lopakhin would ever propose to her because he is too pre-occupied with business. She also thinks that if she just possesses money, she would go to the convent if the estate is sold.

Act Four

Lubov, in her anxiety to hear the auction result, tells Trofimov about her lover who has been taking advantage of her. He is now severely ill in Paris and asks Lubov to come there. Trofimov says that the auction result hardly means anything and that Lubov should have thinking about the future instead. He also frankly tells Lubov that she better ignores her lover as the man has robbed her. Lubov is angry about this.

An old servant named Fiers remarks that as Ravensky has become poor, the guess at their party has greatly changed. No barons or counts are eager to come now; it’s even difficult to get a station master to come. Meanwhile, Varya cries because Trofimov keeps teasing her as Madame Lopakhin.

Finally Lopakhin and Gaev arrive at the party; the first looks happy while the latter tired. It appears that Lopakhin has bought the estate for himself, defeating Gaev. It means that the Ravenskys must leave the estate, and their dearest cherry orchard will be cut down to make space for the villas building. Lopakhin reflects how he had been succeeded to own the estate where his father and grandfather used to work on as slaves. Lubov weeps and Varya throws away her keys. Lopakhin reproaches Lubov for not listening to his suggestion; while he expresses his eagerness to axe the cherry trees, although not long before he says that the cherry orchard is ‘the most beautiful place in the world’.

Vacating the house is quite a scene. Lopakhin offers a loan to Trofimov, which the latter rejects because he is a man of free. Meanwhile, Anya, Varya and Lubov all concern about Fiers; whether he has been transported to the hospital, which Yasha confirms that he had given the order, and that ‘they’ must have done that. Dunyasha cries over her separation from Yasha, whom takes it very coldly. Varya is the most distressed soul among others because Lopakhin never proposes to her until the end amid Lubov’s personal request to him. Meanwhile, Anya and Trofimov seem to be the happiest couple of all; they look at the future as a brighter one than what they would leave behind. Anya even convinces her mother that they would plant cherries in a new orchard, and that it would be more beautiful than theirs.

*spoiler* Lubov and Gaev are the last to exit the house before Lopakhin locks every door as he will leave for a quite long time. For a moment silence fell on to the empty house. But, it soon appears that it’s not quite empty, because old Fiers is actually still in the locked house, undetected by others!! Oh my… what an ending!



  1. I would love to see this one performed live. I'm playing to read one of Chekov's other plays for the LRP challenge!

    1. Yes, it would be very interesting to see this performed live. I look forward to your Chekhov's play post!


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