Monday, October 12, 2009

Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov

Three Sisters Don’t Get to Moscow

The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and Circus Theatricals present Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters directed by Jack Stehlin. The producers, Ron Sossi and Jeannine W. Stehlin, have given Los Angeles a wonderful production of Three Sisters with Zale Morris creative costumes, hair and makeup, and nicely set for the period. There are moments of theatrical brilliance (more on that later) but those moments are few and far between as these three sisters don’t get to Moscow, nor do they even try.

Which is not to say that all is lost because it isn’t. Hope springs eternal. Stanislavski was known to rehearse a Chekhov production for a year before he presented it to an audience. Sadly, the Odyssey and Circus Theatrical cannot afford that luxury.

The play opens with with our three sisters: Olga (Vanessa Waters), Irina (Murielle Zucker) and Masha (Susan Ziegler) one year after the death of their father. Olga tells us they left Moscow eleven years ago “and I wanted so much to go back home.” And so starts our journey of getting back to Moscow, the overriding focus of our play and the reason for our being.

The three sisters are a dispirited bunch that believes the answers to their problems lies in Moscow, where the flowers are brighter, the skies clearer and the people vibrant and sophisticated, where an intelligent woman can mingle in anonimity or can pursue their fantasy of marrying a young vibrant Moscovite

Masha, constantly dressed in black, is the only one of the three sister married. It is a loveless marriage to Kulygin (Alexander Wells) who walks around most of the day wondering the whereabouts of his free spirited wife. Olga is the 28-year-old spinster who one day hopes to marry anyone who would ask her. Irina is their lovely little sister who wants to meet a man in Moscow and marry him and ignores the suitors visiting on a daily basis.

The play begins with the celebration of Irina’s name day by inviting the local military officers: Baron Tuzenback (Jonah Bay), Solyony (Garrett McKechnie), Colonel Vershinin (Tom Groenwald), Fedotik (Alan Wells), Rode (Jace McLean), along with renter and family friend Doctor Chebutykin (Thomas Kopache).

Also invited to the party is Natasha (Cameron Meyer) a commoner and fiancée to Andrey Prozorov, the intellectual gambling brother to the three sisters. Andrey invites Natasha to become his wife at the end of act one. In act two Natasha tries to take over the household and has also has an affair with Andreys’ boss. Natasha seems angry in all her endeavors and does not take delight in her marriage, her child, or her affair but she does supply this production with a much needed boost.

Andrey (Sheldon), the gambling brother, shows us no sign of his addiction on stage. Solyony (McKechnie) gives us no hint that he wants to kill Tuzenback (Bay) for taking Irina away from him. Vershinin cares little or nothing about his family and cares nothing about Masha. His job as a soldier is about conquest and he will leave without question or thought to anyone.

As in all militaries around the world there is a hierarchy but this particular production has the Colonel, Captain, and Lieutenant as equals and their relationship doesn't suggest a difference in rank. There is also something to be said about an officer wearing a uniform on stage, boots should be polished, shoulders up, chest out, and the man should fill out the uniform with pride.

Theatre can be a grand mixture of realism and fantasy. Jack Stehlin, the director, provides us with two moments of inexplicable joy. Those are when Fedotik takes the picture at the dinner table and later in the fourth act when the cast introduces us to fall and the outdoor setting. This is an extremely hard working cast in need a few additional elements.

There were two exceptional actors on stage, Ronald Hunter, the janitor Ferapont, and Shannon Welles, the Prozorovs’ eighty-year-old nurse, Anfisa. Their execution is flawless and stunning to watch. Well worth the price of admission.

Also, major pieces of the play are missing that would explain the ending and give the audience a stronger emotional commitment. This play requires an emotional commitment from each actor as well as a strong physical life. The actors seemed so far away from each other there was no emotional or physical relationship. And there was no weight given to changes in their relationships. Moments passed like soldiers in opposing trenches.

Through November 8, 2009

Reservations: 310-477-2055

No comments:

Post a Comment