Act I, Detailed Summary of The Cherry Orchard: "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov
The play opens with Lopakhin entering in one of the rooms of the house while the chambermaid Dunyasha is guiding his way. The time is dawn. We understand from their conversation that Lyubov Andreyevna is returning after 5 years. Lopakhin recalls from his childhood how gentle she has been. Once when his father had hit Lopakhin on his face, he was bleeding. She saw him and took him to the sink of the very room he is now sitting in. "Don't cry, little man," she said, "don't cry, my good little peasant, it'll be as good as new by the time your wedding comes around." Lopakhin says that though he is the son of a peasant yet he has a lot of wealth today.
Yepikhodov enters the room asking Lopakhin something which he refuses and asks him to leave. Just then Dunyasha enters with the cider for Lopakhin. She tells him that Yepikhodov has proposed her. She says that he is a peaceful yet unfortunate man whom people call "the walking calamity". But "he's madly in love with" her. While she is speaking the Lyubov Andreyevna's buggy arrives and they haste out to welcome her.
Lyubov Andreyevna, her brother, Leonid Andreyevich Ghayev and her daughters, Anya and Varya. They are giving her a warm welcome. Then everybody leaves except Dunyasha and Anya. Dunyasha shares with Anya: "The office clerk, Yepikhodov, proposed to me just after Holy Week" while Anya is fatigued by the journey. Dunyasha tells her of that Pyotr Sergeyevich arrived three days ago. Varya enters and asks Dunyasha to make coffee for her mother. Then she caresses with Anya and thanks God for her having returned: "My heart and soul is back! Our lady fair is back! Our beauty".
Anya narrates the journey of how she reached Paris to find and bring their mother back. According to her the mother, Lyubov Andreyevna, was living in a bad shape there but despite her bad circumstances she was extravagant: "Mama understands nothing! We sit down to eat at the train station, and she goes and orders all the most expensive dishes, and then gives each of the waiters awhole ruble as a tip". Then they both worry that "the estate will be auctioned in August in its entirety" if they fail to make the interest payment.
Then Anya asks Varya if Lopakhin has proposed her. She responds in negative: "His mind is all consumed with his deals, his business; I'm the furthest thing from it... Everyone is saying we're congratulating me, but the truth of it is there's nothing there, nothing at all whatsoever, it's all just a dream". Varya wishes to marry Anya with some rich man and herself take to the convent. They remember that six years ago their father died and just after then their seven years old brother. They believe: "Mama never recovered, never, she simply left us, left us and never looked back".
Then Lopakhin is sitting with Lyubov and her brother Ghayev. He narrates how much he respects her: My father was a serf, a slave, of your grandfather and your father, but you, you specifically, did so much for me once that I forgot about everything else and love you, as if you were my own flesh and blood... more than my own flesh and blood". This reveals the emotional attachment of Lopakhin with Lyubov while she is just lost in the happiness of being her home again. Lopakin proposes to save her estate from being auctioned. He advises her to lease the land to vacationers by clearing the cherry orchard. This way she could make up to 25 thousand roubles a year. It would not only save but also sustain their luxurious living. He offers to spend any amount of money she would like.
Lyubov refuses by saying: "If there is anything at all interesting about our entire province, anything in the least way remarkable, it would have to be this cherry orchard of ours. Lopakhin is very much cautious of time and seems short of time. He tells them the business of vacation houses is on the bloom and is likely to profit even more in the coming years. Lyubov rejects the proposal and Lopakhin leaves the place telling them that he is to attend some business matter and would return in three weeks' time.
Then her neighbour asks her for some loan which Varya refuses and Lyubov tells him that she has nothing to lend to. At the same time, the teacher of her deceased son comes to meet her. She gets emotional. The neighbour seeks the loan again and she gives him the money of 240 roubles. The comments of her brother are: "I see my sister hasn't lost her habit of throwing money around".
Vary, Anya and their uncle are discussing dreaded auction of their estate. The uncle tells them that Lopakhin can certainly help and if their "mother will have a talk with Lopakhin; he'll never say no to her, of course." The uncle also assures them that he will manage to save the orchard: I swear it on my honour, I'll swear any oath you like, the estate will not be sold! (Stirred, animated.) I swear it on my happiness! Here's my hand on it, if I'm wrong, if I allow the auction to go forward, you can call me worthless, you can call me a dishonourable man, if you like! I swear it, with every fibre of my being!" He also directs Anya to go to her great aunt, the baroness, for seeking a loan to settle down the interest on the land.