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PlayMakers’ 'Three Sisters' honors Chekhov with an adapted script

PlayMakers Repertory Company production of Three Sisters.

CREDIT:  Jon Gardiner
Buy Photos PlayMakers Repertory Company production of Three Sisters. CREDIT: Jon Gardiner

Experiencing disappointment in life is universally relevant. PlayMakers Repertory Company’s production of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” acknowledges this, and honors the play’s theatrical history. 

This is the final weekend for the PlayMakers production. Its last show is this Sunday, Feb. 7.

PlayMakers’ production captures the complexity of the characters’ relationships and the pain of unmet expectations. These complex relationships center on the Prozorov sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina; their brother, Andrei, and his wife, Natalya; their romantic interests; and small town friendships.

The characters’ unraveling lives were beautifully reflected in the evolution of the set, designed by Alexis Distler. What begins as an elegant home full of warm wooden surfaces and bouquets of flowers ends as a nearly empty stage with only a piano and a bare, wooden house frame. The small Russian town empties so much that it echoes, suggesting the sisters’ empty future. A reoccurring ticking of a clock reminds the characters of their worst fears — that they will soon forget and be forgotten and that their lives are meaningless — and a featured cello connected and dramatized scenes.

Though a modified script, adapted by Libby Appel, the production is still Chekhov’s story of limiting social structures and a crumbling Russian family. The actors, directed by the new producing artistic director Vivienne Benesch, allow their characters to dwindle and suffer, and the performances are professional and engaging.

Notably, Allison Altman’s Irina becomes a woman in the production, transitioning from a whimsical 20-year-old to a working woman, worn after only four years. Arielle Yoder portrays Masha with realism and an air of a frustrated modern woman, and Marinda Anderson’s Olga is grounded and sympathetic. As Andrei, Benjamin Curns also accomplishes a successful arc from the idolized brother to a foundationless, debt-acquiring family embarrassment. This is thanks to Natalya, performed by Carey Cox, who is unassuming and then meticulously invasive. Joshua David Robinson was also captivating and thorough as Aleksander, and Daniel Pearce performed the optimistic, wordy Fyodor well.

Though dealing with Chekov’s intricacies, the production dragged a bit at the end, but the play’s themes were still successfully conveyed. An emphasis on sisterhood bonds and the philosophizing of work was difficult to miss in the production. But perhaps the production is best summed up with Idina’s line: “Where did my life go?”

The production is undoubtedly Chekhov’s world, but it is also a reminder to take advantage of life and not allow it to pass without noticing.


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