What is modern about Anton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard?
One thing which is and was modern about the Cherry Orchard is the emphasis on realism. As mentioned in an essay by the critic Joseph Krutch (linked below) he said of Chekov:
The very soul of his method had always been the avoidance of anything artificially "dramatic," and he was wise enough not to alter it when he came to write drama. In The Cherry Orchard as in his stories the plot is insignificant; instead of clothing a narrative skeleton with thought and feeling he generates his moods and delivers his reflections in a manner which appears to be in the last degree casual. Strokes of characterization, flashes of humor, and unexpected touches of nature seem introduced almost at random; and yet somehow an unforgettable picture is evoked.
Many modern elements are contained in that paragraph, most importantly that Chekov uses a modern palate, but does not overly dramatize the play. He uses many techniques, but relies on realism and disdains artificial 'drama'.
In our contemporary world, we have seen land sold off to make way for housing developments. Where our fathers and grandfathers strolled through woods or orchards, today we see gated communities or track housing.
In Chekhov, due to financial considerations, the family must sell off their prized possession, the beautiful cherry orchard. At the end of the play, the sound of the ax and old Firs signal the end of a generation and in many ways, a world. In today's world of economic instabilities, we watch as our landscapes are transformed from pastoral to industrial. Just as in the play, money dictates.
Out with the old and in with the new.