Pam Gems is hereby identified as author of this work in accordance with section 77 of the, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The author has asserted her


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THREE SISTERS
A DRAMA IN FOUR ACTS

BY ANTON CHEKHOV
Version by Pam Gems

Copyright © Pam Gems

Pam Gems is hereby identified as author of this work in accordance with section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The author has asserted her moral rights.
All rights whatsoever in this play are strictly reserved and application for performance etc. should be made before rehearsal to Rose Cobbe, United Agents, 12-26 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LE, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 3214 0800.

http://unitedagents.co.uk/agents/rose-cobbe/. Assistant: Dan Usztan. Email: dusztan@unitedagents.co.uk Tel: +44 (0) 20 3214 0873. No performance may be given unless a licence has been obtained.

THREE SISTERS

Characters


ANDREI SERGEYEVICH PROZOROV

NATALIA IVANOVNA, his bride, then wife

OLGA )

MASHA ) his sisters

IRINA )

FYODOR ILICH KULYGIN, schoolteacher, Masha’s husband

ALEKSANDER IGNATIEVICH VERSHININ, lieutenant colonel, battery commander

NIKOLAI LVOVICH TUZENBAKH, baron, lieutenant

VASILY VASILIEVICH SOLYONY, staff-captain

IVAN ROMANOVICH CHEBUTYKIN, military doctor

ALEKSEI PETROVICH FYODOTIK, second lieutenant

VLADIMIR KARLOVICH RODEI, second lieutenant

FERAPONT, a guard of the Zemstvo1 an old man

ANFISA, nanny, old woman, 80 years old


The action takes place in a provincial town.


THREE SISTERS
ACT ONE
A drawing-room in the Prozorov house, with columns and a hall beyond, where the dining table is being laid.
OLGA, in the dark blue uniform of a teacher in a girls’ school, is on her feet marking exercise books. MASHA, in black, with a little hat on her lap, sits reading. IRINA, in white, is standing, her mind elsewhere.
OLGA

It’s the fifth today, the fifth of May. Your name-day Irina...the day Daddy died, a year ago today. It was cold, there was snow - you were lying there, as white as a corpse, I thought we’d lost you. A year. Here we are, we talk about it now as though nothing - and you’re in a white dress, face shining.
(The clock strikes twelve.)
Oh, and the clock striking just as it did then - the solemn music as they carried out the coffin and the sudden noise of the guns - a volley of respect for the grave of a general in command of a brigade.

But nobody there.

Hardly anyone. And it was raining - the rain turned to snow it was so cold.
IRINA

Don’t. What’s the point?
The BARON TUZENBAKH, CHEBUTYKIN and SOLYONY appear in the hall, by the table.
OLGA

Today it’s warm, so warm we can have the windows open - the birch trees aren’t even out yet. In Moscow in May everything’s in bloom - I remember Daddy getting his brigade in May and we left in sunshine. Eleven years...it seems like yesterday. When I woke up this morning, saw the light - so bright it made your heart sing - I yearned to be back in Moscow.
CHEBUTYKIN

Like hell...
TUZENBAKH

Rubbish.
MASHA, lost in her book, whistles to herself.
OLGA

Don’t whistle indoors, Masha. It’s bad luck .
(She looks at the book she is correcting.) I’m getting a headache. Teaching all day, private lessons at night, I’m getting old before my time. Four years at that school has drained all the energy out of me. Only one dream gives me strength - just one -
IRINA

To go back. To go back to Moscow. Sell the house, finish everything here -
OLGA

- and home to Moscow!
CHEBUTYKIN and TUZENBAKH laugh.
IRINA

Andrei will be a professor, he won’t want to stay here. There’s only Masha.
OLGA

She can come to Moscow for the summers every year.
MASHA whistles quietly.
IRINA

It’ll happen, God willing. (She looks out of the window.) It’s so lovely outside today - and it’s my saint’s-day! When I remembered first thing I felt such joy, I remembered when Mama was alive - such thoughts - wonderful thoughts -

OLGA

You look lovely today - shining - so beautiful - and Masha too...and Andrei as well, if he wasn’t so fat, it doesn’t suit him. I’m thinner, looking older, I suppose from having to put up with school, so tiring. But today I’m home, no headache - I feel younger. Everything’s good and I’m only 28. I should be married and able to stay at home - oh, if I could be at home all day - I’d love my husband.
TUZENBAKH

(To SOLYONY) Rubbish, don’t be such a bore. (Comes into the drawing room.) Oh, I forgot! You’ll be getting a visit today from Vershinin, our new battery commander. (Sits at the piano.)
OLGA

Oh what a thrill.
IRINA

How old is he, is he old?
TUZENBAKH

Not really. Forty, forty-five at the most. (Playing quietly.) Certainly no fool. Talks a lot.
IRINA

Is he interesting?
TUZENBAKH

Apart from having a wife...his second...a mother-in-law and two little girls, yes. You’ll hear all about it from him - wife’s a bit touched, wears her hair in plaits, goes on and on about - I don’t know - ideas - has a go at killing herself now and then just to annoy. I’d have got rid of her long ago but he puts up with it - just complains to everybody.
SOLYONY comes into the room with CHEBUTYKIN.

SOLYONY

With one hand I can only lift 35 pounds but with two hands 300 even 400. That means two men are not twice as strong as one, but three times, five times, even more...
CHEBUTYKIN

(Reading from newspaper as he walks.) If hair is falling out dissolve four grammes of naphthalene in half a bottle of spirits and apply daily. (Stops and writes it down)...apply daily.
(To SOLYONY) So, as I was saying, put the cork in the bottle, a glass tube through it, then you take a pinch of colouring...
IRINA

Ivan Romanovich...dear Ivan Romanovich...
CHEBUTYKIN

What is it, joy of my heart?
IRINA

Tell me, why am I so happy today, I’m in full flight, above me big white birds in a blue sky - why - why?
CHEBUTYKIN

(Kisses her hands tenderly) My little white birds...
IRINA

When I woke up this morning I got up, washed - all of a sudden I felt, I began to feel that everything was clear - that I knew how to live. I understand now dear Ivan Romanovich. A person must work, hard, all the time, whoever he is, that alone can give his life meaning, purpose, happiness...even ecstasy. How right to be a worker, get up at dawn, break rocks on the streets, or a herdsman or a teacher, or a driver on the railway - my God, better to be an ox, a horse producing work,

IRINA (Cont’d)

than a young woman who gets up at noon, drinks coffee, doesn’t dress till 2 o’clock - oh it's awful! I’m as thirsty as someone dying of thirst in boiling hot weather, that’s how much I want to work - and if I won’t, if I won’t get out of bed then you must stop being my friend beloved Ivan Romanovich...
CHEBUTYKIN

(Tenderly) I will, I will...
OLGA

When we were small we were out of bed by seven o’clock, Papa’s orders. Irina still wakes up, but she lies there till nine thinking about the state of the world with a face like this. (She pulls a serious face and laughs.)
IRINA

Because I’m not a little girl any more, I’m 20 years old.
TUZENBAKH

A yearning for work, occupation - God I understand that. I’ve never done a stroke - never, ever. I was born in Petersburg, cold, pointless place, to a family that had never worked, never wanted for anything. When I was a cadet I’d come home every night and wait for a lackey to pull off my boots. My mother worshipped me - amazed if anyone found fault with me. As for work, doing anything useful, oh I was kept well away from that. Protected. Well, whatever the protection was for it’s not going to succeed.
It’s in the air - the storm that’s coming - a huge overwhelming blast that will blow away all the laziness, idle meaningless, lives spent with only the rot of boredom eating away people’s souls, zest for being. I’ll work and so will you all, every one of us twenty years from now.
CHEBUTYKIN

Not me, I shan’t be working.
TUZENBAKH

You don’t count.
SOLYONY

You won’t be here twenty years from now, thank God. Couple of years you’ll keel over from a stroke, or I’ll get furious and put a bullet in your nose, dear heart. (Takes out a scent bottle, sprays himself with cologne.)
CHEBUTYKIN

(Laughs) I haven’t lifted a finger since I left university. Haven’t read a book...just the papers - (takes another newspaper from his pocket_ - so I know, what do I know - (looks at the paper) - let’s say I know about Dobrolyubov - he’s a writer of something - God knows what.
(Knocking from the floor below.)

Ah - must be for me - wonder who - back in a minute. (Goes, combing his beard in expectation of a visitor.)
IRINA

What’s he up to?
TUZENBAKH

Didn’t you see his face? Probably got a present for you.
IRINA

No, that’s so tiresome.
OLGA

Or he’s doing something stupid.

MASHA

(Sings quietly) By the shore a golden chair

Around the oak

The oak so green

So gold the chair

So clear the light

The green and gold

Beguiling sight.

(She rises, hums quietly to herself.)
OLGA

Masha...you’re unhappy today.

(MASHA, still humming, puts on her hat.)

Where are you going?
MASHA

Home.
IRINA

You’re going?
TUZENBAKH

Leaving Irina’s saint’s-day?
MASHA

It doesn’t matter, I’ll be back this evening. Goodbye darling. (Kisses IRINA.) Health and happiness, all good wishes again. When Father was alive 30 or 40 officers at every saint’s-day party - now only one and a half - the place is like a desert. I’m off, I’m feeling low - no-one’s listening to me. (Laughing through tears.) We’ll talk later, but goodbye for now darling, I must be off.
IRINA

(Upset) Do you have to?
OLGA

(With tears) I understand, Masha.
SOLYONY

If a man philosophizes, that’s philosophy - sophistry at least. With two women it’s gab.
MASHA

What do you mean, you horrible man?
SOLYONY

Nothing. “He had no time to say hullo, Before the grizzly laid him low.”
Pause.

MASHA

(Angry at OLGA) Oh stop howling!
ANFISA and FERAPONT enter with a cake.
ANFISA

It’s all right, Ferapont, old man, your feet are clean.
(To IRINA) From the Council, from Protopopov. It’s a cake.
IRINA

Oh thank you. Tell him thank you. (She takes the cake.)
FERAPONT

Eh?
IRINA

(Louder) Tell him thank you!
OLGA

Nanny, give him some. (Louder, to FERAPONT) Go on down, they’ll give you a piece downstairs.
FERAPONT

Eh?
ANFISA

Downstairs...cake downstairs, Ferapont Spiridonich. (She leads him off.)
MASHA

I don’t like Protopopov. We shouldn’t invite him.

IRINA

I didn’t.
MASHA

Good.
CHEBUTYKIN comes in followed by a SOLDIER with a silver samovar. Murmurs of surprise and displeasure.
OLGA

A silver samovar...oh no! (She goes into the hall by the table.)
IRINA

Ivan Romanovich, what are you doing?
TUZENBAKH

(Laughing) What did I tell you!
MASHA

My dear doctor, have you no shame at all?
CHEBUTYKIN

Beloved ones, you mean everything - you’re all I have - I’m an old man, nearly 60, I’m nobody, nobody at all, I have nothing - nothing worth a damn except my love for you - I’d have left this earth a long time ago if it weren’t for that. (To IRINA) My darling little one, I’ve known you since the day you were born. I carried you in my arms, I loved your dear dead mother...
IRINA

But why such expensive, extravagant presents?
CHEBUTYKIN

(Almost in tears, angry) Extravagant? Honestly. (To the SOLDIER) Take it in there. (Teasing) Expensive presents...
The SOLDIER takes the samovar into the hall.


ANFISA

(Enters) My dears, there’s some colonel, I don’t know who he is, halfway up the stairs - I’ve never seen him before, he’s got his coat off already. Be nice Irinushka - be polite to him - we’re late with breakfast already...oh Lord...(leaving.)
TUZENBAKH

It must be Vershinin.

(VERSHININ enters.)

Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin!
VERSHININ

(To MASHA and IRINA) May I have the honour of presenting myself: Vershinin. I’m delighted to be here at last...good heavens - you’ve grown up!
IRINA

Do sit down, we’re delighted to see you.
VERSHININ

The pleasure’s all mine but aren’t there three of you? I don’t remember your faces but I do remember that Colonel Prozorov had three little girls, I saw them with my own eyes. Time goes so quickly...so fast!
TUZENBAKH

Aleksander Ignatievich is from Moscow.
IRINA

From Moscow? Are you from Moscow?
VERSHININ

Yes. I was serving in his brigade when your father was battery commander there. (To MASHA) I think I remember your face a little.
MASHA

I don’t remember yours.


IRINA

Olga! Olga! (Calls to the hall) Olga...here! (OLGA) comes in from the hall.) Colonel Vershinin is from Moscow.
VERSHININ

Ah, you must be Olga Sergeyevna - then you Maria - and Irina, the youngest...
OLGA

And you’re from Moscow?
VERSHININ

Yes. I studied in Moscow, joined the service in Moscow, served a long time there and now here I am, as you see, in charge of a battery at last. I don’t really remember you, but I do remember there were three sisters, and I remember your father quite clearly, I used to visit you in Moscow.
OLGA

I think I remember everyone, and then...
VERSHININ

Vershinin. Aleksander Ignatievich Vershinin.
IRINA

Aleksander Ignatievich?
VERSHININ

Yes.
IRINA

From Moscow?
VERSHININ

Yes.
IRINA

Oh, it’s amazing!
OLGA

You see, we’re moving back there.



IRINA

Most likely by the autumn. Going back to our home, where we were born, on Old Basmannaya Street. (She and OLGA laugh with joy.)
MASHA

And now we meet someone from Moscow! (Excited) Now I remember! You remember, Olga - we used to call you “the lovesick major”, you were a lieutenant then and you were in love with someone and everyone teased you and called you that.
VERSHININ

(Laughs) Yes, that was me - the lovesick major...
MASHA

Only you had a moustache then - of course you’re older now - (she becomes tearful at the realisation.)
VERSHININ

Yes. I was still young then...in love. Not the same now.
OLGA

But you haven’t got a single grey hair...you’re older of course, but not old.
VERSHININ

In my forty-third year. How long have you been away from Moscow?
IRINA

Eleven years. Masha, why are you crying?... (Tearful) Now I’m crying!
MASHA

I’m all right. Which street did you live on?
VERSHININ

Old Basmannaya.
OLGA

But so did we!
VERSHININ

To get to the barracks I had to walk over the huge bridge there - water thundering under your feet, not a place to be all on your own, saddens the soul.

(Pause.)

But here you have a fine river - wonderful!
OLGA

Cold though - oh, and the mosquitoes...
VERSHININ

No, good healthy Russian climate. The forest, the river, the birch trees - of all the trees I love birch trees the most - dear modest things. A good place to live - except why is the railway station so far away? No - one seems to know why that is.
SOLYONY

I know.

(They all look at him.)

Because if the station were near then it wouldn’t be far and since it’s far, it can’t be near, can it?

(An awkward silence.)
TUZENBAKH

A joker, Vasily Vasilievich.
OLGA

Oh now I remember you, I remember you!
VERSHININ

I knew your mother.
CHEBUTYKIN

A fine woman, God rest her soul.
IRINA

Mama is buried in Moscow.

OLGA

In the Novo-Devichy churchyard.
MASHA

I’m beginning not to remember her face...dreadful. Well, who’ll remember us - we’ll all be forgotten in time.
VERSHININ

Yes forgotten - nothing to be done there. All the things that mean so much to us all forgotten - unimportant in the end.
(Pause.)
What’s interesting is not knowing what will last, remain, become significant, and what won’t. Probably Copernicus - Columbus were laughed at when they were alive. Perhaps our lives will seem ridiculous, primitive - even sinful.
TUZENBAKH

Who knows? Or the other way round - we’ll be remembered with reverence and respect. There’s no torture now, public executions are banned - of course, a good deal of suffering still goes on...
SOLYONY

(High voice) Cheep, cheep, cheep...here, some birdseed, baron, let’s hear you philosophise.
TUZENBAKH

Vasily Vasilievich, leave off - (he moves to another seat) you’re boring.
SOLYONY

(High voice) Cheep, cheep, cheep...
TUZENBAKH

(To VERSHININ) So much suffering everywhere - but at least we’re aware of it nowadays - progress there, surely?

VERSHININ

Oh, of course.
CHEBUTYKIN

You think we’ll be remembered with respect, baron - can’t agree. We’re down - there - lowly - look at me (he stands up.) An inconsequential midget - but go on, tell me what a fine thing stands before you - cheer me up.
A violin can be heard offstage.
MASHA

That’s Andrei, our brother.
IRINA

The scholar of the family. Papa was a military man but Andrei’s an academic.
MASHA

Papa wanted it.
OLGA

We’ve all been teasing him today - we think he’s a little bit in love.
IRINA

With a certain young lady who’ll probably come through that door in a minute.
MASHA

You should see the way she dresses - not that they’re hideous, her clothes, or unfashionable. They’re weird - bright yellow with fringes and a red blouse! She must scrub her cheeks raw, they’re so red. Andrei’s not in love, I won’t have it, he’s got taste, he’s just doing it to tease us. Someone said yesterday that she’s after Protopopov, the District Council chairman - very suitable. (Calls) Andrei, come here - just for a minute.
ANDREI enters.
OLGA

This is my brother, Andrei Sergeyevich.
VERSHININ

Vershinin.
ANDREI

Prozorov. (Wiping the sweat from his face.) You’re the new battery commander?
OLGA

Aleksander Ignatievich comes from Moscow, Andrei!
ANDREI

Congratulations, now my sisters will never leave you alone.
VERSHININ

I’ve been boring them already, I’m afraid.
IRINA

Look what Andrei gave me today - a picture frame. He made it himself.
VERSHININ

Yes - it’s ah -
IRINA

And the one on the piano, he made that too.
ANDREI waves a hand and moves off.
OLGA

He’s the family scholar, and a musician, and he makes things - different little things, he can do anything. Don’t go, Andrei - he always disappears - come here!
MASHA and IRINA, laughing, pull him back.
MASHA

Come on!

ANDREI

Please, leave me alone.
MASHA

Don’t be silly! When we called the Colonel the lovelorn major he didn’t mind at all.
VERSHININ

Not a bit!
MASHA

And you’re the lovesick fiddler!
IRINA

Or the lovelorn professor!
OLGA

He’s in love! Andrusha’s in love!
IRINA

(Applauding) Bravo, bravo - encore! Andrusha’s in love!
CHEBUTYKIN

(Holding ANDREI by the waist from behind, still holding his newspaper.) Nature forms us for what - for love alone! (Roars with laughter.)
ANDREI

All right...enough. (Wipes his face.) I didn’t sleep last night - read till four, thought about this and that till the sun came in the bedroom. While I’m here this summer there’s a book I want to translate from the English.
VERSHININ

You read English?


ANDREI

Yes, Papa, God rest his soul, burdened us with oh, so much education - I filled out in the year after his death, it was as if my body had escaped from prison. Thanks to my father, my sisters and I know French, German and English, and Irina knows Italian - oh, - it cost us, believe me!
MASHA

Knowing three languages - what point is there in that, here? Like having a sixth finger, useless. (ANDREI leaves, unnoticed.)
VERSHININ

Useless knowledge? There’s no such thing. The town that doesn’t need intelligent, educated people doesn’t exist. Let’s say that in a backward town like this there are only three people like you. All right, the life will suffocate you here but you won’t disappear. You’ll have some influence, and there’ll be more of you to follow, and more, and more until in the end you’ll be in the majority and life will be astonishing - unimaginably beautiful - amazing. If such a life doesn’t exist yet, work, dream of it, be prepared to learn more than your forebears. (Laughs) And you complain of knowing too much.
MASHA

(Taking off her hat) I’ll stay for breakfast.
IRINA

(Sighs) We should write all this down.
TUZENBAKH

You say it will be amazing in the future, life on earth. True, but to be a part of that, however remotely, we must work, work towards it.
VERSHININ

(Stands up) Yes. So many flowers in this room! (Looks around) Wonderful - I envy you. I’ve spent my life in rooms with two chairs, a sofa and a smoky stove. This is what I’ve been missing all my life - flowers. (Rubs his hands.) Well...anyway.
TUZENBAKH

Yes - work, we must work. Oh, he’s German, all that feeling but I’m not, I’m Russian, I don’t even speak German, my father was Orthodox.
Pause.
VERSHININ

(Moving about the stage) I often think - suppose we could start our lives again, use the first life as something to learn from. At least we would have rooms such as these, filled with light and flowers. I’ve two girls, my wife’s a sick woman and so on - next time round I’d avoid marriage - absolutely!
KULYGIN enters in a tailcoat uniform.
KULYGIN

(Approaches IRINA) My dear sister, allow me to congratulate you on your saint’s-day and wish you, from my soul, health and all a girl of your age could wish for. I’d like to present you with this (gives her a book). The history of our school’s fifty years, written by me. Nothing in it, I wrote it from the lack of something better to do, but read it anyway. Gentlemen!
KULYGIN

(To VERSHININ) Kulygin, teacher at our school, town councillor. (To IRINA) In this book you’ll find a list of all who graduated here in the last 50 years. Feci, potui, faciant meliora potentes. I did what I could. Let him who can, do better.

IRINA

But you gave me this book at Easter.
KULYGIN

(Laughs) Oh well, give it back, better still give it to the Colonel. Colonel - something to read when you’re bored and there’s nothing better.
VERSHININ

Thank you. (Rises) I’m so pleased to have met -
OLGA

Oh you’re not leaving!
IRINA

Stay and have breakfast with us, please!
OLGA

Yes, you must.
VERSHININ

(Bowing) I didn’t realise it was your saint’s-day - forgive me, I didn’t congratulate you - (leaves with OLGA into hall beyond.)
KULYGIN

Sunday today, day of rest and be happy, depending on age and position. Time to put away the carpets till winter in mothballs - remember the Romans - mens sana in corpore sano. As our headmaster puts it: the secret to a successful life is order - order and form. Without that - phtt!
(He laughs, his arm around MASHA’S waist.) Masha loves me. My wife loves me - and the curtains too - away with the carpets. Oh I’m in a good mood today! Off to the headmaster’s at four, Masha - he’s organising a walk for teachers and their families.
MASHA

No thank you.
KULYGIN

My dear, why not?
MASHA

We’ll talk about it later - oh all right, I’ll come, leave me alone now, please...(moves away.)
KULYGIN

And then we’ll spend the evening with him - he’s not a fit man but he never ceases to put himself out - wonderful. He said to me yesterday after the staff meeting: I’m exhausted Fyodor Ilich - exhausted! (He looks at the wall clock and then his own.) Your clock is seven minutes fast. Yes, he said “I’m exhausted.”
A violin can be heard offstage.
OLGA

Breakfast is ready - we’re having pie!
KULYGIN

Olga! Dear, dear Olga! Yesterday I worked from morning till eleven at night, went to bed worn out - today?...I’m happy. (Goes into the hall) My dear...
CHEBUTYKIN

(Putting his paper in his pocket and stroking his beard.) Pie? Excellent.
MASHA

(To CHEBUTYKIN, sternly) Only don’t drink anything today, d’you hear...it’s bad for you.
CHEBUTYKIN

Rubbish, I haven’t had a binge for two years, anyway what difference does it make?
MASHA

Don’t you dare. (Out of her husband’s hearing.) Another boring, endless evening.

TUZENBAKH

Simple answer - don’t go.
CHEBUTYKIN

Don’t go, darling.
MASHA

Oh yes - “don’t go” - oh this cursed life -
CHEBUTYKIN

(Following her to the hall) Never mind...



SOLYONY

(Following them) Cheep, cheep, cheep -
TUZENBAKH

That’s enough, Vasily Vasilievich - enough.
SOLYONY

Cheep, cheep, cheep...
KULYGIN

(Happily) Your health, Colonel! I’m a teacher - Masha’s husband and really looked after - dear Masha’s so good.
VERSHININ

I’ll have the dark vodka...(he drinks). Your health! I feel at home here.
Only IRINA and TUZENBAKH in the living room.
IRINA

Masha’s low today. She married at 18 when he seemed the most interesting person in the world, but it turned out not to be so. He is very kind, but not clever.
OLGA

Andrei, are you coming?
ANDREI

(Off) Yes! (He enters and makes for the table.)

TUZENBAKH

What are you thinking about?
IRINA

I don’t like that Solyony of yours. He frightens me. Nothing he says makes sense.
TUZENBAKH

He’s an odd man - can be irritating. I think he’s shy. When we’re together, just the two of us, he’s clever, tender even - in company he gets aggressive. Don’t go in - stay? For a moment? Tell me, what are you thinking?
(Pause.)
You’re 20, I’m not 30 yet. So many years ahead of us, long long rows of days full of my love for you...
IRINA

Nikolai Lvovich, please don’t talk about love to me.
TUZENBAKH

(Not listening) I have a desperate hunger for life and experience, for battle, work and this - this thirst in my soul has grown into one with my love for you, Irina. It’s as though you are wonderful...wonderful in order to make life wonderful to me. What are you thinking about?
IRINA

You say life is wonderful. What if it only seems that way? Our life, the three of us - for us life has - it’s as though we’re drowning in weed and mud. Oh, now I’m crying...(wipes her face, smiling.) Work, that’s the answer. We’re unhappy, miserable because we don’t work, have an occupation. We were born to despise work.
NATALIA IVANOVNA(Natasha) enters wearing a pink dress with a green belt.

NATASHA

They’re sitting down to eat already...I’m late...(prinking before the glass.) I think my hair’s all right. (Sees IRINA) Irina Sergeyevna - best wishes! (Gives IRINA a firm, long kiss.) You’ve so many guests, I feel shy, no I do - Baron!
OLGA

(Enters drawing room.) Natalia Ivanovna! Hello, my dear! (They kiss.)
NATASHA

Happy Saint’s-Day. You’ve so many people here...I feel quite...
OLGA

Nonsense, only friends and family. (Nervous undertone) You’re wearing a green belt. Oh dear.
NATASHA

Why, is it bad luck?
OLGA

No, no, it’s just - it doesn’t go with the dress.
NATASHA

(Daunted) Oh but it’s not really green - it’s a much duller colour...(follows OLGA to hall.)
They sit down to eat. The drawing room empty.
KULYGIN

Here’s to Irina and a handsome fiancé - already time you were married.
CHEBUTYKIN

And for Natalia Ivanovna a little fiancé too.
KULYAN

Natalia Ivanovna already has a little fiancé.


MASHA

(Taps fork against plate) A toast! To life, wherever it went!
KULYGIN

Masha! C-minus for bad behaviour.
VERSHININ

This tastes very good, what’s it made from?
SOLYONY

Cockroaches.
IRINA

Ugh - don’t be disgusting!
OLGA

For dinner tonight roast turkey and sweet apple pie - I’m at home all day today, thank God, and this evening - gentlemen, this evening please.
VERSHININ

May I - ?
IRINA

Of course - please!
NATASHA

All very informal here.
CHEBUTYKIN

And here for love and love alone. (Laughs.)
ANDREI

(Angry) Oh stop it, you never leave off!
FYODOTIK and RODEI enter with a large basket of flowers. RODEI, loud-voiced, has a lisp.
FYODOTIK

They’re already eating.

RODEI

Wait a minute! (He takes a photo.) One. Hang on...(takes another) Two? Right - after you.
They take the flowers into the hall, where they are greeted.
RODEI

Congratulations and best wishes. The weather’s fine, I’ve been out with the boys - I teach gymnastics at the school.
FYODOTIK

You can move now, Irina Sergeyevna, it’s all right! (Takes a picture.) You’re looking very pretty today, if I may say - I’ve got a spinning top for you, it makes the most amazing noise -
IRINA

Oh, lovely.
MASHA

Near the shore a green oak grows,

Around the trunk a golden chair

Around the trunk a golden chair

(Tearful) Why do I keep saying that...it’s been in my head all morning.
KULYGIN

Thirteen at table!
RODEI

(Loud) Who believes that, eh? (Laughter.)
KULYGIN

Thirteen at table means someone’s in love - not you by any chance, Ivan Romanovich?

Laughter.
CHEBUTYKIN

Oh I may be an old dog, but why is Natasha here blushing I wonder?
Loud laughter. NATASHA runs into the living room, followed by ANDREI.
ANDREI

Takes no notice...ignore them...
NATASHA

I shouldn’t have left the table like that but I was embarrassed - I just can’t...(buries her face in her hands.)
ANDREI

Don’t be upset, they were only joking, they mean well, they’re good people and they love me - and you. Come to the window, they can’t see us here...
NATASHA

I just don’t know how to be with other people!...
ANDREI

Oh my dear, you’re so young, wonderful! Don’t worry - don’t be upset! Trust me - it’s all right, they can’t see us, they can’t see us! Why do I love you - when did I - I don’t understand any of it...oh, my beloved, sweet darling girl - marry me! I love you...I love you...as no-one’s ever loved before...(They kiss.)
The OFFICERS enter, and seeing them, leave in amazement.
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