The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Caucasian Chalk Circle begins in a ruined village in the Soviet Caucasus shortly after the end of World War II. Workers of two collective farms meet with an expert from the State Commission for Reconstruction to discuss the rebuilding of their valley. While members of the Galinsk goat-breeding kolkhoz want to return to the valley, members of the neighboring Rosa Luxemburg fruit farm intend to use the former grassland to plant orchards and vineyards. With the help of an agronomist, the two groups try to arrive at a solution. The agronomist reminds them of the days when they had to hide in the mountains from the Germans, dreaming of rebuilding the valley together, and provides them with plans for an irrigation project which could increase the land’s fertility tenfold.

In honor of the visiting delegates from Galinsk and the experts, the fruit-growing kolkhoz has invited a famous folksinger, under whose direction a Chinese play called The Chalk Circle will be performed in traditional masks. It is emphasized that the play has some bearing on their problem.

The play takes place in ancient times, when Governor Georgi Abashvili was alive and well and the poor were oppressed. One Easter Sunday, while the governor and his wife are in church, Grusche, the kitchen maid, makes the acquaintance of Simon, a young soldier of the palace guard. A coup by the “Fat Prince” relieves the governor of his duties, and he is bound in chains and taken away. Simon is to accompany the governor’s wife, but before he leaves he proposes to Grusche; she promises to wait for him until he returns.

The governor’s wife is primarily concerned with assuring that the appropriate clothes are taken along; only when the gate is on fire does she leave in haste, abandoning her child, Michael. It is rumored that the governor has been beheaded and that anyone found with his child is in danger. Despite the warning, Grusche takes Michael and flees into the mountains. As time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult for her to care for the child; she leaves him at the doorstep of a peasant woman, hoping that he...

(The entire section is 871 words.)