REVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Three Sisters

Three Sisters By Anthon Chekhov, A New Version by Sarah Ruhl

Based on a literal translation by Elise Thoron with Natalya Paramonova

and Kristin Johnson-Neshati

Directed by Joyce Piven

Produced by Piven Theatre Workshop

“We know too much.” – the three Prozorov sisters

Bittersweet Chekhov classic a well acted glimpse into 1901 Russian gentry

Sarah Ruhl’s fresh new version of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (1901) is told without the humor of other productions I’ve seen. Rather Ruhl’s version contains a deep seeded melancholy that emphasizes the bittersweet distance between reality and dreams. The hopes and the boredom of the Prozorov sisters are deftly played out by a marvelous cast in director Joyce Piven’s tasteful and moving production.

three sisters

We meet the Prozorov sisters who are trapped by circumstances in a small garrison town far from Moscow in 1901. We meet Olga (Joanne Underwood), the oldest sister, who fears losing her youth as a teacher in the local high school. Masha (Saren Nofs-Snyder) is trapped in an unhappy marriage to the pedantic teacher Kulygin (Brent T. Barnes). Irina (Ravi Batista), ever the optimistic yearns for opulence. Their brother, Andre (Dave Belden), wants to be a professor at Moscow University but settles for gambling and a marriage to Natasha (Amanda Hartley Urteaga) a despotic controlling personality. With army officers visiting often, the sisters have their company to pass the time.

three sisters

Three Sisters is a modern naturalistic character study of unrequited hope as each character tries desperately to garner some happiness out of their drab day-to-day existence. The Piven production is a subtle, nuanced production wherein we witness  both the decay of the privileged class in Russia and their desperate search for meaning in their lives. The three sisters’ frustration is played out through their longings for a return to Moscow and their unhappy relationships.

three sisters

John Fenner Mays, as Chebutykin, Andy Hager as Tuzenbach were equal to the riveting effective work from Joanne Underwood (Olga), Saren Nofs-Snyder (Masha) and Ravi Batista (Irina). This is a polished production with fully developed characters that gives the ‘melodies’ to Chekhov’s text showing the strength and defiance of the sisters hemmed in by the conventions of Russian society.  The acting  will amaze you.


Tom Williams

At Piven Theatre Workshop, 927 Noyes Street, Evanston, IL, 847-866-8049,, tickets $25, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.

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