Life and Love: Chekhov’s Three Sisters

November 10th, 2010

I expected to like Chekhov’s Three Sisters, now playing at the Piven Theatre in Evanston through November 21.  What’s not to like?  It is directed by theatre veteran extraordinaire Joyce Piven and adapted by rising star playwright, Sara Ruhl.   I didn’t expect, however, to love it, to engage in it as I did.

Three Sisters: Irina, Olga and Marsha are young and defiant and dream of going to Moscow, where they expect their lives will truly begin.  Life has other plans and as it becomes clear that their life-paths aren’t unfolding as they hoped: work and love are less fulfilling than anticipated and the dream of Moscow becomes distant and hazy, we watch these characters grow in resilience, strength and resolution in their small town Russian community.

Chekhov shows us there is joy, freedom, and fortitude in embracing the life that does unfold for all of us.  And with Ms. Ruhl’s adaptation, there is also humor.  Joyce Piven’s  Three Sisters is decidedly funny and heart warming, all in one, and her empowering of the actors to bring their strengths to the stage is life affirming.

The actors – 15 of them! –  committed so intensely to their roles ( hail to Daniel Smith) and moved so poetically around each other as they rode the highs and lows of  Chekhov’s joys and sorrow together on stage, that I found myself being swept away by the melodic dance of it all:  “To Moscow!” hopes Irina’s with the sparkle of a  young girl, and “…to know why we suffer.  Only to know!” declares Olga near the end.

When I left the theatre, I felt I had been somewhere else, experienced something new, and was delighted, despite the affirmation that, indeed, life is tricky.  Thank you to Joyce Piven, Sara Ruhl and the actors of Three Sisters for allowing me to feel this wide range of emotion, and laugh along the way, all in one short evening. It’s the ultimate gift of theatre from this new version of Chekhov’s stage classic.

-Elysabeth Alfano

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