"Three Sisters" at Yale Rep

By Tom Nissley

Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” in a new version by Sarah Ruhl, and directed by Les Waters, plays at Yale Rep through October 8. It’s a stunning production of this sad story of three women whose father’s military transfer to an outpost far from Moscow, and subsequent death, their gambling brother, and his over-bearing wife, have reduced their dreams to painful frustration. The play has all the famous Chekhov amenities: a self-doubting doctor [Chebutykin (James Carpenter)], an old servant who needs care, a household in need of repair, a changing society, seemingly happy memories from the past, and of course, intricate loves and desires that skip across established bonds like tossed pebbles do a pond.

Olga (Wendy Rich Stetson), Masha (Natalia Payne), and Irina (Heather Wood) are the three sisters of the title. Olga is a responsible school teacher, and the pillar within the family system; Masha an unhappy and brooding wife, whose husband Kulygin (Keith Reddin) is a bumbling professor; Irina is the youngest and a vivid dreamer. It is she who most often declares that they will all return to Moscow, creating the gestalt that permeates the play: ‘we cannot be happy here.’ Their brother Andrei (Alex Moggridge) is at first a shy and sensitive musician, then a secret gambler, finally a cuckold father married to the shrewish Natasha (Emily Kitchens). Natasha manages to offend with vigor as she leaves the baby for a rendezvous with her lover, and imperiously demands that the old servant, Anfisa (Barbara Oliver), stand in her presence.

Masha is intrigued by Vershinin (Bruce McKensie), equally unhappy with his own marriage. They have a brief but intense affair, interrupted when the Army post is moved elsewhere. It’s a blow to the community, and devastating to Masha.

When Irina agrees to marry Tuzenbach (Thomas Jay Ryan), he happily imagines that he will have work, but first accepts a duel with Solyony (Sam Breslin Wright), a rival. When Tuzenbach is killed in the duel, it drops a final thud onto Irina’s plan for happiness.

Sets (Annie Smart) and Costumes (Ilona Somogyi) are perfect. The sisters’ final statuesque embrace is framed by the essence of great lighting (Alexander V. Nichols).

Tickets and information at www.yalerep.org.

Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre

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