Anton Chekhov's final play, The Cherry Orchard, premiered in Moscow just six months before his death, in 1904. It was immediately well-received, but the author was frustrated with the production. Chekhov considered it a comedy, but Moscow Art Theater director Constantin Stanislavski staged it as tragedy, with what the playwright felt was an insufferable amount of "weepiness." Over a hundred years and a hundred thousand boring Chekhov productions later, one imagines the author would have been pleased with Andrei Belgrader's fresh revival of the play at the intimate Classic Stage Company, where an almost sublime balance of absurd humor and poignant wistfulness has been achieved, thanks to a splendid ensemble featuring John Turturro, Dianne Wiest, Josh Hamilton, Alvin Epstein, and Daniel Davis.

The Cherry Orchard really can be quite funny, primarily for how it presents a fading aristocracy's frivolous ineptitude. The titular orchard is located on the estate of a wealthy family who no longer have the means to keep it in their portfolio. They've returned to the manor to try and raise enough money to prevent the land from being auctioned off, but Madame Ranevskaya (Dianne Wiest) is a spendthrift who literally cannot hold onto a dime, and despite all her indulgent nostalgia about her ancestral home, she and her clan prove incapable (or unwilling) to doing anything serious about it. So they sit around and play billiards (or recall great moments in billiards), drink, dance, idly philosophize, and generally pity themselves.

Lopakhin, the prosperous son of a serf played by the great John Turturro, advises the family to keep their estate by turning part of it into a profitable vacation retreat, but Ranevskaya won't hear of it. "Cottages, summer people—forgive me, but it's so vulgar," she tells him, with an exhausted wave of the hand. So instead [SPOILER!] Lopakhin simply buys the estate himself, and his buffoonish celebratory dance in front of the appalled fading aristocrats is vulgarity incarnate. At one point Turturro even rips the stuffing out of a chair like a feral beast, sending feathers floating through the small theater for the remainder of the performance, like a ticker-tape parade celebrating his character's rise from serf to bourgeois barbarian.

But that bit of unbridled scenery-chewing is an exception; Belgrader has directed the play (which has been smoothly translated by John Christopher Jones) with a delicate, playful touch. It's very difficult to get Chekhov right, but it's clear this ensemble is listening intently to the subtleties in what is arguably the author's most mature play, and only rarely to do you catch one off the actors imposing any sort of comic business that isn't intended in the text. Aside from the unsurprisingly entertaining Turturro and Wiest, Alvin Epstein is particularly hilarious as the grousing manservant Fiers, and Daniel Davis's sonorous, elegantly affected voice is just perfect for the part of Ranevskaya's blabbermouth brother.

If anything, you wonder if the actors are holding back a little as they settle into their roles, and it will be interesting to see how their performances evolve over the course of this month. (The run ends December 30th.) But as it opens tonight in its current form, this "Cherry Orchard" is full of delightful moments of humor and pathos, and it makes a fitting conclusion to Classic Stage Company's excellent series of Chekhov productions, which began in 2008 with The Seagull (also starring Wiest). If you've never seen a Chekhov production that felt authentic and lived-in, inhabited by real people who seem almost like contemporaries, here is a rare opportunity.