Alan Bates and Frank Langella won Tony, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards for their Broadway performances in this acclaimed adaptation of Turgenev's classic exploration of the delicious paradox of humor and despair found in casually inflicting cruelty. The return of Olga Petrovna and her husband to her deceased parents' country manor should be a happy event for Kuzovkin, the house's resident penniless gentleman, but his friend Ivanov fears it will be disastrous for his comrade. All is going well when a neighbor arrives, a rich man whose favorite pastime is humiliating those he considers to be his inferiors. In no time, the "gentlemen" are plying Kuzovkin with drink and exposing his pathetic history layer by layer. Finally, in a drunken rage, he reveals a family secret that challenges their very identity, winning back what has been his all along but unable to reclaim his honor.
This text includes updates made by the author for the play's revival at the Old Vic theatre, December 2013.