Theater Review: Production Ensemble’s “Three Sisters”

Production Ensemble’s Three Sisters, by Anton Chekhov, was incredible.

The show was performed on LPAC mainstage this past weekend, with an exceptional cast, a huge set, and Russian music that blasted over loudspeakers between acts. The costumes, particularly the soldier’s uniforms, were striking.

Three Sisters is a classic and a masterpiece, so naturally my primary fear on entering the theater was that it would be boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though the driving force of the play is general depression and the major theme is that nothing works out happily, the production was full of laughter and rejoicing. In short, the actors did not play depression; they were constantly trying to escape depression by making each other laugh and lightening the mood.

The three sisters were stunningly played by Maddie Charne ’14 (Olga), Michelle Johnson ’16 (Masha) and Casey Ferrara `14 (Irina). Charne played the older sister, who is desperately unhappy about her lack of marriage, and who works through pain in her head and stomach. She cannot believe that Masha, who has a husband (Kulygin, played by Allison Hrabar ’16), would cheat on him with a visiting soldier, Vershinin (Mark Levine-Weinberg ’14). Meanwhile Irina is, of all of them, the most desperate to get to Moscow, where she will be surrounded by cultured people and start her life afresh, without sorrow or despair.

Good luck; no one gets to Moscow in this play, either physically, by walking the thirty miles to get there, or metaphorically, by finding contentment.

Ferrara was dressed all in white, which symbolized her youth, innocence and purity, while Masha was in black to show her depression and capability of cheating on her husband. Yet this cheating is not seen as sinful by the audience; her relationship with Kulygin is so cringingly terrible that we want her to find true love with Vershinin. Kulygin, brilliantly played by Hrabar, is stupid, obsessed with meaningless things and very clingy to Masha, who clearly doesn’t like him in the least. Masha and Vershinin’s love, on the other hand, is a shining bright spot in their lives and in the play. At the end of the performance, the two are literally ripped apart by Olga because Vershinin needs to leave (presumably for war), and Masha collapses, weeping, into Olga’s arms. Vershinin and Masha’s relationship was entirely believable and wonderfully portrayed by Levine-Weinberg and Johnson.

This was truly an ensemble production; in addition to the three sisters, their brother Andrei (Stephan Tuomanen Masure ’15), his girlfriend-turned wife Natasha (Michaela Shuchman ’16), Irina’s sometime-fiancé Tuzenbach (Tyler Elliot ’15), his rival Solyony (Aaron Matis ’16) and the sisters’ older friend Chebutykin (Nathan Siegel ’15) share center stage.

Natasha is mocked by Andrei’s family for wearing silly clothing and being odd. After marrying Andrei, she becomes a tyrant; her tyranny culminates in Act IV, when she seizes a fork that was left outside and shrieks, “Who left this fork out here?” She bullies Anfisa (Anushka Mehta ’15), the family’s old maid, into leaving the house, and fights constantly with Olga.

Chebutykin begins the play as a charming old man. People around him often reference the drinking problem that he used to have, but everyone laughs at the references—clearly, the problem is no longer serious. By the middle of the play, though, Chebutykin is drinking again; he staggers into the sisters’ room in Act III and hurls a clock at the floor, breaking it. He then lunges into a devastating monologue about there being no point to life, and says he wishes he had never been born. Siegel played this role with great versatility, beautifully showing the happy, loving side of Chebutykin so that his rage and sorrow later in the play were all the more heart-wrenching.

Other great characters were two jokester soldiers, played by Jack Sailer ’15 and Joshua Peck ’13, who add to the merry crew at the beginning of the show and snap photographs (with excellent light and sound effects). Ferapont, a deaf old man, was hilariously played by Isabel Knight ’16. Solyony is socially awkward, but convincing as Tuzenbach’s rival for Irina’s hand (though neither get her heart).

The play was brilliantly staged; the set allowed for a great deal of playing room and the actors used it fully, creating diagonals and tension in every scene.

Three Sisters was fantastic. I enjoyed every second.

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