Three Sisters

Thu 4th – Sun 14th August 2011

reviews

May Anderson

at 10:13 on 6th Aug 2011

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‘Moscow’ is the word on everyone’s lips in Anton Chekov’s tale of the disappointment and denial of three stifled sisters and their brother Andrey in a remote Russian town. For Irina, Masha and Olga, Moscow is the Promised Land where happiness is earned by the book – where three true and good women can recapture the vanished joys of their childhood. But this is Chekhov, and as one would expect in real life, these women don’t get what they want and the shadow of their thwarted dream haunts the play in much the same way that a potentially excellent production lurks beneath the surface of this ultimately run-of-the-mill interpretation of this once provocative tale of female endurance in the face of life’s futility.

The relationship between the three sisters is adroitly handled by the three leads. Amy Melissa Bentley is suitably matronly and restrained as Olga, garnering the audience’s empathy instantly with her touching confession that she would have married any man, if only one had asked her. Alexis Willoughby also gives an assured turn as a Masha that has withdrawn from her life. Sweetly lisping her way from inexperienced youth to tired but unbowed women Katrina Abreu gives a captivating performance as the youngest, most idealistic sister bringing a sweet fortitude to what could be a grating performance. This WSCU Theatre Arts production retains the period charm of the piece, sticking closely to the original text, and some of the play’s lack of vitality seems to stem from this unwillingness to play around with the text. Apart from being a master-study of human foibles, 'Three Sisters' can be very funny but it’s a note that the production never quite catches.

In 'Three Sisters', the men dream big but aim low – Andrey seems destined for the Academia of Moscow, but is eventually satisfied with membership of the town council – and the production seems cursed with the same ill. There are some real moments of emotional connection with the audience. The disgraced and decrepit Vershinin’s ruminations on the pointlessness of his existence still ring disarmingly true, but when a moving speech is undercut by a bizarre series of light changes that leave him speaking into darkness one has to question the level of professionalism being employed by this group of students from Aurora / Western Connecticut State University. It’s a shame because other elements of the staging work so well, particularly the evocative but minimal set that conjures the faded grandeur of a Russian bourgeoisie household.

For those seeking a dose of conventional student theatre fare from the fringe, WSCU Theatre Arts delivers and delivers with commitment but lacks the flair and fun one might expect from a Chekhov production.

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