Theatres world-wide embrace Chekhov's handful of plays with a fervour second only to Shakespeare's. Whatever their native language or culture, audiences often see themselves in his Russian characters, making Chekhov seem an author who easily transcends his own culture and time. Nonetheless, students, actors, and audiences alike are often initially puzzled by Chekhov's dramatic texts. Are they comic or tragic, ironic or sincere, starkly familiar or willfully elusive? How can his often seemingly irrelevant dialogue create dynamic performances? In his stories and plays alike, Chekhov challenges his readers to diagnose his characters' desires, opinions, heartaches and joys in the same way that doctors diagnose illness by attending closely to apparently trivial details. In the plays where narrative voice is absent and characters speak for themselves reading under a microscope becomes all the more necessary. The expert attention that Carnicke pays to the performative dimensions of Chekhov's plays makes her book unique among the published guides to Chekhov's works.