I have read your play [The Lower Depths]. It is new
and unmistakably fine. The second act is very good; it is the
best, the strongest, and when I was reading it, especially the
end, I almost danced with joy. The tone is gloomy, oppressive;
the audience, unaccustomed to such subjects, will walk out of
the theatre, and you may well say good-by to your reputation
as an optimist, in any case. My wife will play Vassilisa, the
immoral and spiteful woman; Vishnevsky walks about the house
and imagines himself the Tartar--he is convinced that is the
part for him. Luka, alas! you must not give to Artyom. He will
repeat himself in that part and be exhausted; but he would do
the policeman wonderfully; it is his part. The part of the actor,
in which you have been very successful (it is a magnificent part),
should be given to an experienced actor, Stanislavsky perhaps.
Kachalov will play the baron.
You left out of the fourth act all the most interesting characters
(except the actor), and you must mind, now, that there is no
ill effect from it. The act may seem boring and unnecessary,
especially if, with the exit of the strongest and most interesting
actors, there are left only the mediocrities. The death of the
actor is awful; it is as though you gave the spectator a sudden
box on the ear apropos of nothing without preparing him in any
way. How the baron got into the doss house and why he is a baron
is also not quite clear.
Back to Anton
Chekhov, Letters on the Short Story, the Drama and other Literary
Topics, selected and edited by Louis S. Friedland (New York:
Minton, Balch & Co., 1924), pp. 170-80.