Monday, January 15, 2018

Three Sisters—Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative—SE Portland

The State of Affairs
This major classic tale is written by Anton Chekhov and adapted for the stage and directed by Patrick Walsh.
  It is playing at the Shoebox Theater space, 2110 SE 10th Ave., through January 28th.  For more information, go to their site at www.nwctc.org

An interesting thing about Chekhov, although his plays seem like dramas or tragedies, from our modern perspective, he always insisted that they we comedies (as did the American author, William Saroyan, with his “The Time of Your Life” and “The Human Comedy”).  He looked upon the idle and “noveau riche,” which he based many of his stories on, as exemplifying the humor or human comedy in these people, who had never actually labored a day in their life.  So, to him, their life was without purpose and, thus, they were constantly in a state of boredom or depression.

He also looked upon the working class, the servants, although slave-like in the treatment from others, as having a certain rough-hewn dignity, noble caretakers of the earth, of the past as so with Nature, so when the trees are being butchered (as at the end of this show and “The Cherry Orchard”) to make way for the future or a more urban, industrialized life, it is a sad day, indeed.  A parallel could be made here as to the present day ignoring of global warming and the putting down of cultures that have been denied the opportunities of education, decent jobs and equality.

But, I digress, now back to those days of yore, of over 100 years ago in Russia.  Once upon a time, there were three sisters, Olga (Christy Bigelow), the eldest and head of the family, level-headed, unmarried; then Masha (Liz Jackson), the middle daughter, a loner, unhappily married to a teacher, Kulygin (Heath Koerschgen), a reliable fellow; and the youngest, Irina (Dainichia Noreault), the dreamer, being pursued by any number of young men/soldiers.  And, lest we forget, Andrey (Mickey Jordan), the brother, an intellectual but rather naïve in the ways of the world, like women and gambling.  He eventually marries, Natasha (Isabella Buckner), who becomes a thorn in everyone’s side, a harridan of the first order.

Others in the household are Chebutykin (Chris Porter), a doctor and border, steeped in the old ways and a bit of a tippler.  And, Anfisa (Jane Vogel), a servant and probably a nanny to the three sisters at one time, a retainer from the old world order.  Another “lower class” citizen is Ferepont (Dan Robertson), a member of the Council but also a bit feeble-minded and partly deaf.  And then there are the soldiers, chief among them is Vershinin (Tom Mounsey), an unhappily married man who has taken a shine to Masha.  Solyony (Paul Susi) is a disgusting sort, loud, a braggart and drunk, forcing his way into their lives. 

The last three soldiers, one of which is referred to as the Baron (but since that name is not listed in the credits, I would only be guessing as to which actor played him), is the most serious of the suitors to Irena.  These soldiers are Tuzenbach (Sam Levi), Fedotik (Christopher Beatty) and Rhode (John Bruner).  (The only drawback I see in this show, not really the company’s fault, is that the names of characters in the programs—and no photos of the actors-- are sometimes not the names they call each other during the show, so it can be confusing if trying to decipher who’s who on the playing field).  I will leave the story components to what I have described thus far, so that I don’t reveal plot devices that an audience should discover.

This is, without a doubt, one of the best ensembles I’ve seen in over 500 plays I’ve reviewed!  The cast, to a person, is very convincing in the roles they played and the three sisters themselves are etched in my psyche as setting the bar for acting a notch higher!  What could have been a very complicated set is artistically simplified by clever designs in setting (Kyra Bishop Sanford) and lighting (Molly Stowe).  Walsh has outdone himself with the casting, designing and adapting of this production.  I highly recommend it and if you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.