This is not only a touching and dramatic play, it is also a delicately balanced one. Its characters pass across the stage in a sort of fugue, verbal and visual, as their lives and dreams intertwine. Past and present, wish and reality, humor and pathos, hope and despair -- all these complements play artfully off one another as the deceptively quiet surface of the drama proceeds.
So timeless is Chekhov's work that revivals are always in order. It's not surprising that the eminently responsible CSC Repertory -- the initials stand for Classic Stage Company -- has returned to the Russian master for their latest production. Though their ''Cherry Orchard'' (in Alex Szogyi's translation) has been staged by a guest director, Rene Buch, it evidences the troupe's usual calm and careful approach. While it rarely takes off into real poetry, it generally manages to transcend the ordinary, and since that transcendence is what Chekhov's magic is all about, it makes for a satisfying if not especially exciting two hours.
Buch's directing is reasonably neat, occasionally tricky, and often stylized more than necessary. The settings are sparse, in the CSC manner, and the performers do a lot of roaming about the wide-open stage. They also sink to their knees and roll around the floor, and indulge in other stagy gestures, at the slightest provocation.
While this seems gimmicky at times, it suits the characters who have a touch of the theatrical and brings a little extra zest to a production that might otherwise get weighed down by some of the line readings, which are not always inspired. In sum, it's a competent production that's cluttered but also enlivened by its own quirkiness.
Continuing in repertory with ''The Cherry Orchard'' at CSC is the massive five-hour production of Ibsen's ''Peer Gynt'' - the American premiere engagement of the complete text, given in two separate parts. Coming up are Shakespeare's ''King Lear'' and Lermontov's ''Masquerade.''
It's a busy season, and so far, a worthy one.