The Cherry Orchard is one of the best known plays by the prolific Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov. It has been translated into practically all languages and is part of the classic repertoire of all world stages. Chekhov is known for his art of subtlety, humour, stream of consciousness technique, and fine balance which is often difficult to get right. Chekhov described the play as a comedy, with some elements of farce, though Stanislavski treated it as a tragedy. Since its first production, directors have contended with its dual nature. The play concerns an aristocratic Russian landowner who returns to her family estate just before it is auctioned to pay the mortgage. Unresponsive to offers to save the estate, she allows its sale to the son of a former serf. 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. It dramatises the rise of the middle class after the abolition of serfdom in the mid-19th century and the decline of the power of the aristocracy.