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Three Sisters

To clarify, while Jesse Edward Rosbrow has "adapted" Chekhov's Three Sisters for Theatre of the Expendable, this review will refer to it by its gimmicky slogan–3 Sisters 6 Actors 12 Dollars

With the naturalism destroyed, the subtext discarded, and (at best) two passable actors cobbled out of the mass, it would be criminal to link this to Chekhov. One problem is most obvious in the crowded first act, in which actor Clinton Lowe mentions "There are thirteen of us at the table!" and the casual observer has no way of telling if Lowe is speaking as Kulygin, Masha's husband, or Solyony, rival to Irina's loveless dalliance with Tusenbach. (I won't bore you with the plot any more than the show does, which is to say, you'd better be familiar with these characters before seeing the show.)

Using the word "adaptation" implies that something has changed to better deal with circumstances, but putting on the show with six actors shows nothing, except for arrogance and foolhardiness. Instead, 3 Sisters 6 Actors 12 Dollars is a mutation–or, after three hours all told (including fumbled light cues, technical problems, and overlong intermissions), an abomination. The strongest bits of this play are, not surprisingly, the monologues, although these too are undercut by poor acting and poorer direction: as Olga tells her sister Irina that "people don't marry for love, they marry because they're supposed to," Morgan Anne Zipf rises from the background (where she plays Masha) and exits stage left, only to silently but distractingly re-enter as Natasha, Andrey's wife, long enough to exit stage right . . . just in time to come back as Masha again. These elements of farce have no place in Chekhov's weighty naturalism.

But Rosbrow is apparently blind to a great many things. Not only does he choose to retain some of the trivial moments of the script, but he blocks the intimate space in a way in which the actors not only turn away from the audience, but obscure their castmates, too. Act II takes place in the evening, but what starts out as an admirable attempt by Wilburn Bonnell to mimic candle and moonlight ends up turning into forty minutes of shadowacting. (This is appropriate only in the sense that the cast looks to be sparring in preparation for a show rather than actually acting it.) In Act IV (years pass between acts), Vershinin says "Life is growing brighter and easier every day," which is one of Chekhov's bitter comedies, for he is leaving Masha, with whom he's been having an affair. 3 Sisters 6 Actors 12 Dollars could not have been more cruelly ironic had they tried.

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