The scene is a country estate in the declining days of Czarist Russia, the home of an old and ailing professor, his young wife, and various other family members. For years the estate, under the management of Uncle Vanya, brother of the professor's first wife, has yielded a modest income, but now, with the professor older and bored, he offers the idea of selling the estate and investing the money in bonds—a prospect most unsettling for those who have come to regard the place as their home. Counterpointed against the professor's unrest are the situations of others in the family: his daughter Sonya's unrequited passion for the local doctor, Astrov, who visits often; Vanya's love for the professor's young wife; and her own unspoken attraction to another. Throughout there is the bittersweet, deeply human aura of real people helplessly in thrall to events and feelings beyond their control. In the end the estate is not sold and, as the summer wanes, the professor and his wife depart, leaving the others to settle back into the uneventful but bearable routine that has become their way of life.
The addition of this present translation to Mr. van Itallie's new English versions of THE SEA GULL, THE CHERRY ORCHARD and THREE SISTERS, completes the cycle of Chekhov's most significant works. With his accustomed skill and sensitivity, Mr. van Itallie has again brought new vitality and currency to one of the glories of the modern theatre.