By Leeor Adar
Anton Chekhov’s ode to the Russian rested but restless classes in Three Sisters is reimagined by director Greg Ulfan in Metanoia Theatre’s production of 3 Sisters. One never knows what to expect with a Chekhov production, but I was surprised that this production engaged its audience despite the three hours given to the tragedies of its three sisters, Irina, Maria (Masha), and Olga.
Ulfan views theatre as an ‘endangered species’ in an increasingly digitised age, and no play draws its audience back into the depths of their thoughts like Chekhov’s Three Sisters. The lamentations of the characters before us emulate our lamentations of today, ‘to work’ and find purpose – as rag-dolls to the realities of our modern day, so too are the lives of the characters in this play.
Ulfan directs a group of actors who are very well cast in their roles. Erick Mitsak brings a sense of comedy to his role as Baron Tuzenbach, and yet manages to inject the affable and pitiable nature ideal for the character. Reece Vella’s passionate performance as Vershinin contrasts well with the beautiful intensity and harshness of Donna Dimovski’s portrayal of Masha. Their soul-destroying final embrace made for difficult viewing, but was incredibly satisfying performance-wise. Masha’s sisters were performed well, with Tariro Mavondo’s bursts of youthful joy and exasperation as Irina adding lightness to the otherwise solid and stoic gloom of Natalia Novikova’s Olga. Another performance highlight was the sudden outburst of Michael Gwynne’s portrayal of Solyony; losing his otherwise quiet and imposing demeanour, he confesses his obsessive and unrelenting love for Irina, crawling across the dining room table just to grasp a hold of light in this gloomy, Chekhovian world.
Lara Week’s set and costume design was charming and minimalist, with Lego pieces to replicate dining materials and gifts. The actors wore uniform clothing with white painted embellishments of collars, bows and buttons; this was stylistically inspired, coupled with the actors’ white face paint to capture perhaps the imposing duties of the characters’ lives that render them immobile against the currents of their times. Christopher Bolton’s live piano-playing in the background set the tone of this production, and mirrored the action of the play in a pleasing touch.
The length and drawl of this play is its downfall, and the final scenes were exhausting, perhaps telling of the exhaustion of the characters. The bursts of singing and dancing were thankfully convincing and joyful, and set alight the moody atmosphere we’re held captive within for these three hours.
Despite the length and occasionally camp nature of 3 Sisters, I can’t honestly say I did not enjoy it. I laughed, and thought a little too hard about the meaning of it all. This was ultimately what I expect Chekhov wanted, and Ulfan has given us a loving spoonful of this melancholy world.
You can submerge yourself in this production until Saturday November 5, 7pm at the Metanoia Theatre, Mechanics Institute: https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=221728