A short history of Chekhov’s first major dramatic work.

Platonovis the name given to the first major dramatic work by Anton Chekhov, penned at his parents’ seaside home in 1878. The role of Anna Petrovna was intended as a vehicle for the Maly Theatre’s Maria Yermolova, but the great actress declined the opportunity and the play was only rediscovered among the effects of Chekhov’s sister in 1923.

“The play was put together with a profligacy that was inexcusable, and conceivable only in the writer’s youth,” said Russian critic Mikhail Gromov. “It is at the same time a drama, a comedy and a vaudeville; or more accurately, it is not any one of these. But that said, it is chaotic in a way that bore a remarkable resemblance to the reality of Russian life.”

The play is most commonly named for its lead, the provincial schoolteacher Mikhail Platonov, but was first published as Fatherlessnessin 1923, premiering in Russia as late as 1957. Adapted by Alex Szogyi, and renamed A Country Scandal, it received its American premiere Off-Broadway in 1960. A successful adaptation by British playwright Michael...