Top positive review
15 people found this helpful
First rate drama
on 29 October 2007
For anyone who doesn't know Chekhov, I recommend you get acquainted with his work immediately. His short stories are superb, and his five plays are masterpieces of theatre. It is such a shame that he died when he was only 44 - like Mozart, you really wonder what on earth he would have produced by the time he was 60.
As always with Chekhov, I am amazed at the fact he is able to create tension and high drama from absolutely nothing - boredom, loss of zest for life, inability to move on, hopeless incompetence, arrogance, etc etc. Characters are absolutely pared down to the minimum necessary to dissect a psychological state, atmosphere, general state of affairs etc., and the language is an exercise in economy - it functions only as a vehicle for creating dramatic effect. If the penguin translation is faithful, then there is little, if any, superfluous imagery, and nothing that digresses from the function of each moment of dramatic intensity.
The tone and themes of each play - as with his short stories - are always ambiguous: bittersweet, tragicomic, sad and joyful, generosity and miserliness, adultery vs sterile faithfulness etc. In this lack of commitment to a stable reality Chekhov was well ahead of his time and it is easy to see how his plays have exerted such an influence on the development of the modern play.