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Experiment 3

The Cherry Orchard

The Cherry Orchard.

an epilogue

Scene: Backstage of the Moscow Art Theatre. The opening performance of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" has just finished, and the actors, still in costume, are laughing and talking amongst themselves. Enter the great director, Stanislavski, livid with rage, with Anton Chekhov.

Stanislavsky:(To the actors) The Moscow Art Theatre is ruined. Ruined, do you hear? We can never play before an audience again: you have murdered a deep and sensitive tragedy --

Chekhov:(Patiently) Tragedy? My dear Konstantin Suasage, my play is no more a tragedy than you are Catharine the Great. "The Cherry Orchard" is a comedy - almost, I'm afraid, a farce.

Stanislavski: Anton Pablovitch! What you have to say is completely irrelevant. Time and again what an author has written has turned out quite different from the original intention. True, your play has some comic characters page 26-- but what of the fool in Lear? Is Lear a tragedy?

Chekhov: (Smiling) No Konstantin. But in Shakespeare's play Lear is a tragic figure. Show me a tragic figure in mine.

Stanislavski: (Turning to a small, elderly but beautiful woman whose face bears traces of tears) Mme Ran - yevskaia! Has not the sound of the axe biting into the trees of your beloved orched brought your whole life crashing down about your ears? What have you to live for now?

Ania: Don't listen to him Mama. The cherry orchard's gone it's true. It won't come back again. But don't cry. You still have you life ahead of you, you still have your kind pure heart. Come away, darling, come away. We'll plant a new orchard even more splendid than the old one. You'll see it Mama, and you'll understand. You'll smile again, Mama, and Happiness, quite deep happiness will fill your heart. Come, Darling, Come!

Stanislavski: Yes, go with her, Luibov But you'll never understand, will you. The dream that was your life has been shattered and even a thousand orchards, each more beautiful than the last, will never restore that dream.

Mme Ranyevskaia: Oh my orchard! My beautiful orchard! My life, my youth, my happiness - Goodbye, goodbye. (Breaks down. Music is heard in the distance)... Sounds like music somewhere!

Gayev: Yes, that's our famous Jewish Band. Don't you remember, Luiba? Four violins, a flute and a contrabass.

Mme Ranyeskaia: Oh! It would be nice to get them to come to the house, sometime. (Now perfectly happy.) We could have a party!

Stanislavski: Ah, the party! There was tragedy for you. Dancing the Grand Road to that nostalgic waltz, playing silly little parlour games -

Charlotta: Think of a card, my good M'sieu Pischik! That's right. Now shuffle the pack. Ein, zwei, drei. (Claps hands) There it is in your breast pocket.

Pischik: Fancy that!

Stanislavski: - and all the time you knew that your orchard, your whole way of life was being auctioned page 27off. that any moment you would hear the fateful news-

Lopahin: When we got to the auction, (Triumphant) He bid forty-five, I bid fifty-five. He kept on adding five thousand each time and I added ten. It finished at last - I bid ninety thousand over and above the mortgage, and I won. Yes, the cherry orchard's mine, now! Mine!

Stanislavski: Yes,Lopahin bought the orchard - Lopahin the peasant's son. And what was he going to do with it? Chop down the trees, lease the land for summer cottages - summer cottages for little pot-bellied businessmen and their silly painted wives -

Mme Ranyevskaia: Summer cottages (Laughs) Forgive me, my friend, but its so vulgar!

Gayev: I absolutley agree with you. Don't you realise sir, that this orchard is actually mentioned in the guidebooks? For five hundred years it has illumined the hearts of all who have gazed on its fragrant beauty, blossoming -

Varia: Uncle, please!

Ania: Dear uncle, you're at it again.

Trofimov: You'd better screw back off the red into the middle pocket.

Gayev: I'll keep quiet! Pot the red! Canon off the cush!

Chekhov: And you still maintain, Konstantin, that this is a tragedy?

Stanislavsky: Of course it's a tragedy! What about Feers? If what you wrote was a comedy why did Feers die at the end?

Chekhov: But -

(Enter Feers, muttering, balancing precariously a tray with coffee cups. )

Feers: Madam will have her coffee here?

Stanislavski: (Furious) But you can't come in now - you're dead! Dead Do You Hear?

Feers: (Vaguely) The day before yesterday?

Varia: He doesn't hear very well.

Stanislavski: This is impossible! Impossible I tell you! Feers is dead!

Chekhov: It's no use, Konstantin, this is getting us nowhere. There is only one way we can judge whether our play is a tragedy or a comedy. (Turning to the audience) Ladies and Gentlemen, what is your verdict?