Chekhov’s early farces were written as simple money-spinners, and have been held in fairly low regard by critics. Even Chekov himself called A Marriage Proposal a “wretched, boring, vulgar little skit.” and advised its director to “roll cigarettes out of it for all I care.” So I’m probably going to be on my own in rhapsodizing about it, but here we go anyway.
‘A Marriage Proposal’ is something like the platonic ideal of a farce. From concept to individual lines, every part of it is built with the detail of a pocket watch. Everything is in place perfectly, without a line wasted on building characters or providing context. It’s a wonderful, intricate thing, and what’s more it’s still hilarious, 128 years after it was written, and in translation.