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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review
The awardwinning playwright Sarah Ruhlís new version of Anton Chekhovís Three Sisters, directed by Les Waters, is uneven and does not hold as many surprises as expected. Ruhl, who does not know Russian, relied on Elise Thoronís literal translation, and the help of Natalya Paramonova (her sister-in-law) and Kristen Johnsen-Neshat.
While unique staging such as falling apples, elevator floods and flying fish are hallmarks of plays such as The Clean House, Eurydice and Passion Play, Ruhl has opted to tell this classic story in a traditional way. This is a massively complicated piece, over three hours long. We must be grateful that the plot remains in tact and that the wonderful characters remain recognizable, even though there are now jarring expletives scattered throughout.
A dark, strong, wood-trimmed, textured set designed by Annie Smart, smokily lit by Alexander Nichols, consisting of a very large living and dining room topped by a layer of birch trees, provides the ambiance of 1900 Russia. Some of Ilona Somogyi's costumes for the fourteen-member cast are splendid, some rather strange.
The performances of the three sisters are excellent, starting with the celebration of Irina's 20th birthday which also marks the end of their year of mourning for their father. Wendy Rich Stetson is authoritative but compassionate as shoolteacher Olga. Heather Wood is a lovely Irina and Natalie Payne a brooding, short-tempered Masha. They are united in their dreaming of selling the house they live and and returning to Moscow, the birthplace where they are sure they will find the intellectual and artistic life they are missing.
An amusing Keith Reddin plays Masha's husband Kulygin, the much older professor who borers her. Bruce McKenzie portrays the philosophizing soldier Vershinin she has an affair with subtly but without majesty. This corporal, while always alluding to his wifeís suicide attempts and their two young daughters, asks the most important questions: "Who will remember us when we are dead? What will life be like in the future?"
The most compelling scenes are when Vershinin and his unit are leaving and Masha clings to him weeping uncontrollably; and when Irina learns that her fiance, the persistent Tuzenbach — a very agreeable Thomas Jay Ryan — has been killed in a duel by the fiesty Solyony (Sam Breslin Wright), insists that she will devote herself to work.
Alex Moggridge as the sister's brother Andrei is magnetic and interesting to watch as he develops from a shy musician to a henpecked husband and father who hates his job. Equally remarkable is Emily Kitchens as his outrageously obnoxious wife Natasha who becomes the dictatorial empress of the house the sisters can't sell because Andrei not they, owns it.
Chekhov intended this as a comedy, but there is little here that is humorous. Still we can never forget those three sisters languishing in the provinces.
Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show
Slings & Arrows-the complete set
You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company