Mastakov is a writer and hopeless romantic. He waxes philosophical about his optimistic faith in a beautiful and bright future for Russia and its people, and recklessly carries on a heated affair with his mistress, Olga, right under the nose of his loving and devoted wife, Elena. But it is a perilous time. Russia is crumbling and political and social unrest is spreading. Mastakov, blinded by his idealism, doesn’t understand his friends’ and neighbors’ growing disillusionment, and with his childish dalliance, brings his marriage to the brink of ruin. Gorky’s rarely produced play is set against a background of discontentment and revolutionary agitation, and explores the dynamic but unhappy and isolated intelligentsia of Russian society that so desired drastic and radical change.