The highly educated and cultured, Moscow-bred Three Sisters have seen the circumstances of their lives reduced. The First Act opens on the one year anniversary of their army father’s passing, which coincidentally is the youngest of the brood Irina’s birthday, the play shows a trio of sisters dissatisfied with their lot in life. As a result of their father’s military life, the family has decamped to a town so disconnected it is miles from the nearest train station, and enlivened only by the temporary presence of a battalion of soldiers. The sisters hunger for any contact that can bring their beloved Moscow back to them as cherished yet enlivened memories.
Their brother Andrei is on the fast track at the university and is poised to make a name for himself until he makes a bad choice in spouse, the initially silly then increasingly malevolent Natasha. The rest of the cast is peopled with visiting soldiers, faithful family retainers and friends.
|Fedotik (Adrian Blake Enscoe) delights Irina (Vera Varlamov)|
Olga (Nike Doukas), the oldest sister, is seen at first trying to rally the rest of the family with almost brittle chatter as she welcomes a steady stream of visitors and plays the role of gracious hostess. As the performance moves from act to act, Olga seems to become even more visibly downtrodden, increasingly suffering from headaches as the burdens of her life wear her down.
|Vershinin and Masha|
As dispossessed as the women characters are in Three Sisters, the men are portrayed as elitist, displaying juvenile romantic fantasies and hopelessly naïve and idealistic views of the future. The gambling Andrei (Christian Conn) squanders the family fortune while Olga frets and Natasha (Megan McDermott) moves in for the kill. Baron Tuzenbach (Leo Marks) asserts his “Russianness” to try and woo Irina, while the annoyingly bizarre Solyony (Jonathan Visser) stalks through his scenes. The most charming of the sycophants, the handsome Vershinin (David Whalen) and the playful Chebutykin (Larry John Meyers) provide the tragic-comedic relief to the male contingent of the play.
I confess the multiple names of any Russian work, and Chekhov is not immune to this, always present a problem for me to follow the storyline. Chekhov’s style is certainly lighter and more subtle than many of his countrymen. The decline of the Russian affluent middle class is poignantly portrayed in a story that resonates in any age.
The intimacy of the Henry Heymann Theatre enables the audience to feel as though they are eavesdropping on the family dynamic and the tiny community to which they have been exiled.
Three Sisters is playing at select dates and times at the Henry Heymann Theatre in the Stephen Foster Memorial, Oakland through August 26th.
Photo Credit: Suellen Fitzsimmons
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