Monday, February 8, 2010

Three Sisters @ Constellation Theatre: Chekhov? Check On!

Photo Credit Constellation Theatre

I went into this night with great hesitation. I've seen two plays by Anton Chekhov before, The Cherry Orchard and The Seagull. Both were just mediocre. They were boring and long. Each left me not with a sense of hopelessness or that things could be better, but with a sense of lost time and a splitting headache.

So I went into Three Sisters expecting much of the same of the "woah is me" from my previous Chekhov experiences. With slightly higher hopes since Lanford Wilson, one of my favorite American playwrights, translated this play!

The moment I entered the theatre, I knew this was going to be a more enjoyable experience than those in the past. The set designer, A. J. Guban, completely revamped the Source Theatre and turned it into theatre in the round! And the director, Allison Arkell Stockman, really used this to help tell the complacency of the story.

Three Sisters is about three Russian woman and their brother, of the Prozorov family. They once all lived in Moscow and long to go back, but were moved to some outpost because of their father's military career. Oh how they all long to return to Moscow.

So much action is packed into the 4 acts of this play (and yet full of typical Chekhov inaction). No one does anything, but thanks to the direction of Stockman, the play continued to move at a wonderful pace not too typical of Chekhov interpretations. Though at the same time none of the inaction and despondency was lost due to faster pacing.

Of course Stockman can't get all the credit. We have to look at the wonderful cast too! Every person on stage seemed to have a great understanding of his/her character and how they related to each other and the story proper.

One of the standout performers was Katy Carkuff (portraying Natasha - finacee/wife to Andrei Prozorov). During the intermission I turned to my theatre partner and said, "God, I loath Natasha." And my theatre partner said, "well you're not supposed to like her." And I said, "Carkuff has done such a great job portraying the naive girl with the ulterior motive." And as the second half continues, Carkuff continues to make that transition from frumpy girl to a giant bitch. Natasha believes that since she is married to the male Prozorov, she has the right to run the household, despite her implied affairs with Protopopov (the town's "mayor"). Carkuff's performance was very believable and well acted. I look forward to her returning for many more Constellation performances.

Another great performer was Catherine  Deadman (Masha Kulygin (nee Prozorov)). The play opens with Masha (and her sisters) mourning over the death of their father one year earlier. Her hopelessness is very typical of Chekhov, and Deadman could have been easily swayed into the boring aspects of this character. But Deadman brought life to this listless character. You really felt for her as Masha settled into life with her boring husband, Kulygin (portrayed by Ashely Ivey). You wanted her to end up with Vershinin (Michael John Casey) as the two teased the audience with their torrid love affair (often portrayed as torrid through Deadman's and Casey's body language, verses the few words spoken about it in the actual play). Casey also stood out because of his reluctant desire to be with Masha and abandon his suicidal wife and their two daughters.

Shakespearean actor, Billy Finn (Tuzenbach) was not only nice to look at, but wonderful in keeping the pacing of the play more "American," as his character talked the most of change but did the least (other than fall in love with Irina Prozorov (Amy Quiggins))

The whole of Three Sisters' cast were fabulous. Really giving the fairly new Constellation Theatre a strong foothold for drawing in talented actors. 

Three Sisters is performed Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Source Theatre in the U Street Corridor from now until February 21. Tickets can be purchased here ranging from $17 - $25. Seating is general admission and I recommend sitting on the left side (behind the round table with two chairs). Arrive 15 minutes prior to curtain to get great seats. The show runs nearly three hours, with just one intermission. Due to the nature of the "round theatre" there will be no late seating.