Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Ragtime
In the first-floor Mead Theatre, a talented company directed with grace by Jackson Gay performs Chekhov's work in a crystalline translation by Paul Schmidt that eliminates the fustiness that may accompany a play first performed in 1901. However, while the sisters hold the stage downstairs, eight of the supporting performers are rushing back and forth to the second-floor Milton Theatre to tell the stories Chekhov didn't give them.
Simply as an exercise, this is daunting: eight actors not only had to learn two roles (or two versions of the same role), but have to switch back and forth between them in mid-performanceand the timing must be exact or one of the shows can't go on. Scenic designer Daniel Conway has incorporated several video screens into the No Sisters set so the actors don't miss their Three Sisters cues. It sounds like theater as an extreme sport, but it's exhilarating to experience from the audience.
So, what can one say about the productions themselves? This Three Sisters stresses the humor in the interplay among people who think they know what they want but can't focus on getting it. Radiant young Irína (Emilie Krause) talks about how work is the purpose of a fulfilling life, but then she actually goes to work and finds it isn't what she expected. Oldest sister ólga (Bridget Flanery) is stoic, doing her best as a teacher and knowing she is underappreciated. Másha (Caroline Hewitt) is in a stifling marriage to an adoring but boring man (Todd Scofield) and finds a temporary respite with a married soldier (Greg Stuhr).
While the portrayals of the sisters are fine, the performances that really sparkle are Craig Wallace as the aging army doctor who loves the young women as if they were his own daughters and Kimberly Gilbert as Natásha, who marries the sisters' older brother Andréy (Ryan Rilette) and goes from insecure small-town girl to domineering lady of fashion.
Conway's scenic designs echo the different worlds of the two plays, with a simple setting downstairs dominated by birch trees and plank paneling and, upstairs, what Posner describes as "a weird-ass existential Chekhovian green room" crammed with makeup areas, prop storage, a snack table, and other backstage minutiae.
March 16th - April 23rd, 2017