Friday, 12 May 2017

Review Three Sisters

Peter Barker is swept along by an epic production charting the lives and longing of the three daughters in the Prozorov household

Three Sisters (Три сeстры)
by Anton Chekhov

We Didn't Start The Fire

There's something greater than energy alone in this Russian language production of Chekhov's 1900 classic family drama. The heartfelt outbursts, arguments and anger seem to explode in great fires in contrast to the more philosophical interludes.

For the three sisters, schoolteacher Olga (Olga Drozdova), unhappily married Masha (Alyona Babenko) and playful youngest Irina (Victoria Romanenko), the past is glamorous and meaningful. The present is mundane and even unpleasant, defined by the realities of their lives.

Director Galina Volchek teases out the psychological nuances and waves of the drama both with the performances and the staging by Slava Zaitsev and Petr Kirillov on a bare stage with only furniture to evoke the household.

However, it's the revolve which underlines the confusion and inner turmoil of the sisters when their passions rise and their fates bear down on them. In one memorable moment Irina runs to save her fiancé from his fate, charging onward but getting nowhere.

In a Russian production with English surtitles, Babenko captures Masha's complexities, along with her warmth and passion.

Romanenko’s girlish, passionate Irina makes the jump to adulthood with her raw anger at unwanted male advances and the direction of her life. Drozdova's controlled performance as Olga, the eldest and the rock for her sisters,  delicately conveys her strength without an arsenal of  emotional fireworks.

While Moscow is an historical reality, the three sisters' home in their youth, it is also a state of mind -- a brighter future, a more fulfilled life. 

Around them in the provincial garrison town are men who are all in some ways either lacking or wanting -- the sisters' brother, the weak but academic Andrei (Ilya Lykov) doting on his child married to the ghastly Natalia (Yelena Plaksina).

There is the resigned and drunken doctor Chebutykin (Anatoly Uzdensky), the aggressive young officer Soleny (Ilya Drevnov), the refined lieutenant Baron Tuzenbach (Shamil Khamatov), Masha’s inadequate husband Kulygin (Sergei Yushkevich), and the new garrison commander Vershinin (Vladislav Vetrov).

This is a thrilling production of a classic play and altogether a grand theatrical experience. Galina Volchek, also artistic director of Sovremennik for nearly half a century since it was founded during the Khrushchev thaw, deservedly took a standing ovation.  

The Sovremennik version is an absorbing and sometimes shocking three hours, demanding and getting total attention. Done with flair, pace and passion, this is an affecting and riveting production is certainly worthy of a green light. Catch it before it finishes on Saturday, May 13!

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