Longing for something or someone can be motivating, frustrating or challenging. For the Prozorov sisters, Olga, Masha and Irina, it is the passionate desire to return to Moscow, the coveted city they were forced to abandon. For more than a decade they have been isolated in a cultureless community, a small town with only one theater, with little intellectual stimulation and they are literally choking.

Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov penned “Three Sisters” in 1900 and it was first produced in 1901. Until Saturday, October 8, New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre will unveil a new adaptation by the playwright Sarah Ruhl in a three-hour saga that paints an often bittersweet portrait of a family in turmoil.

The eldest sister Olga (Wendy Rich Stetson) tries to be the matriarch of the family, presiding over the household just as she serves as the headmistress of the school where she teaches. Never having married, she looks with envy at her younger sister Masha (Natalia Payne), even though she is unhappily wed to a rather pompous instructor Kulygin (Keith Reddin) who runs around spouting Latin, yet dearly loves his wife.

When the idealistic soldier Vershinin (Bruce McKenzie) reenters the family circle, he is drawn to Masha as the proverbial moth to the flame, even though their union is doomed on so many levels. The play opens as the youngest daughter Irina (Heather Wood) celebrates her twentieth birthday, one year to the day after their beloved papa has died. With her head filled with the romantic notion that work is the answer to the world’s problems, she is still fixated on returning to Moscow to find her true love and reclaim a life she has sadly lost.

Andrei (Alex Moggridge) is the sole brother who angers his siblings when he marries inappropriately and brings his bride Natasha (Emily Kitchens) into the household where she quickly assumes control. Andrei is a further disappointment when he gambles to such an extent that he must mortgage the family home.

The play is rife with men who drink and wager to an excess, with infidelities and unkindnesses, with soldiers who provide a touch of festivity and culture, but at the core it is a play consumed with a rallying cry of “To Moscow” as the elixir to all their problems and woes. Les Waters directs this passionate drama on an amazing set complete with two dozen birch trees designed by Annie Smart.

For tickets ($20-88) call the Yale Rep at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven, tonight at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.

Watch a family unravel and reweave its tapestry threads as dreams evaporate and reality emerges through a forest of birches.

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