Chekhov play gets high marks

Aimee Roy, Maggie Blake and Lesley Robertson of Three Sisters reflect on the Chekhovian dialogue.
Aimee Roy, Maggie Blake and Lesley Robertson of Three Sisters reflect on the Chekhovian dialogue.
Andrei (Simon Paabor) proposes to Natasha (Emma Hunter).
Andrei (Simon Paabor) proposes to Natasha (Emma Hunter).

Talent is in abundance in the drama department’s fall major production, with Queen’s graduate Daryl Cloran directing a modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters. During the remainder of the year, he serves as the artistic director of Toronto’s Theatrefront Company.

Three Sisters
follows the lives of the Prozorov family over a period of several years, beginning one year after the death of their father.

The three sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina, with their awkwardly intelligent brother Andrei, are the main focus of the play, which spans several years. It draws the audience into the lives, relationships, insecurities, and overall drama of this family’s existence.

Gradually, the painful deterioration of the family and its relationships are brought to light over the span of four acts.

Cloran chose to modernize the play by setting it in present-day Russia, altering the script slightly to fit the setting. Chekhov’s spirit remains embedded within the show throughout, despite modern alterations. The transition from 1901 to 2005 is smooth, seamless, and believable, reflecting modern characters and setting within the old Russian theme. The play’s themes and ideals have a universal quality that transcends time and geography, so the audience is able to relate to this group of individuals.

Due to the astounding talent of this young cast and the play’s well known young director, the play becomes immediately accessible to a student audience while maintaining the dignity and maturity worthy of Shaw or Stratford. The strong and believable characters are one of the most prominent elements in this play. The three sisters who are the foundation of the play bring their own traits to the show. Olga, portrayed by Lesley Robertson, has a maternal presence as she encounters the frustrations of her job and life as a spinster. Robertson’s adaptation of this character is mature and she effectively attracts the audience’s sympathy. Masha, played by Maggie Blake, is a feisty but depressed young woman unhappy in love, who continually tries to distance herself from the ones she loves.

Blake brings a dynamic quality to the role with a sort of dark humour, and her dramatic outbreaks of emotion throughout the show are realistic and incredibly moving.

Irina, portrayed by Aimee Roy, is the innocently seductive youngest sister. Her desire to grow up is challenged by her youth and her wish to remain the “little sister.” Roy’s depiction of her appealing but slightly character is enchanting, and the audience is immediately captured by her intelligence and awkwardness in the world of courting. The two older characters of the play, Anfisa, the nanny, and Chebutykin, an army doctor, are portrayed as puppets being manipulated from behind by two silent actors, with the voice of the doctor projected from a speaker within the puppet.

Although the idea is unique and has the potential to be highly effective, it is unnecessary in the play, as the cast and text are more than enough to create a powerful piece of theatre.

One of the dominating elements of this show is the fact that the audience is completely caught up in the world of the Prozorovs because of the strong connection between the people on stage and the characters they are playing.

“It’s rare to find a group of people that get along so well, that are willing to take risks with each other and to feel comfortable with each other,” Blake explained.

“It’s somehow happened with this cast, and with the crew and director. We all just meshed really well.” David Condren, who plays Tuzenbach, credits Cloran for the calibre of the performance.

“The draw for a lot of us was the fact that the director was Daryl Cloran, who’s a really hot director in Canada right now,” he said post-show.

A skilled director, a close-knit cast and a wealth of talent make for one heck of a show. Three Sisters proves to be an excellent choice for the drama department’s fall major production.

Three Sisters will be showing Nov. 9-12 at 8 p.m., with a matinee performance on Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall.

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