Chicago Theatre Review
Three Cheers, for Three Sisters at Steppenwolf
By Lazlo Collins
Steppenwolf’s “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov (adapted by Tracy Letts) is journey that will leave you with a beautiful smile of melancholy and hope. This well-acted production is rich with beauty and texture.
This engaging tale of the Russian Prozorov family begins in 1900. We begin in the family home with brother Andrey (Dan Waller), oldest sister – Olga (Ora Jones), middle sister – Masha (Carrie Coon), and youngest – Irina (Caroline Neff). The sisters quickly establish their relationship with each other and with those people who come and go throughout the house.
This continuing story takes us through three and half years in and around the family house. Changing each of the sisters and what they thought life would be for themselves. The family has houseguests that for better or worse shape those they share their home with during some difficult times.
Ora Jones is masterful as the oldest doting sister. Her life at the school gives her headaches, but makes her motherly resolve more fierce and focused. She brings us a beautiful heart to this show.
As middle sister, Carrie Coon moves us through her trapped soul. She lashes out to all within earshot, with some of the best lines in the show. But her heart cannot be silent, or her desperation to be loved by someone she can truly love back. As she says goodbye to Vershinin, deftly played by John Judd, her pain is almost unbearable. Ms. Coon strikes a chord of disenchantment in us all. Well done.
With youngest sister Irina bringing her wide eyed feelings to the beginning of the show; Caroline Neff has the most to grow and I think changes the most. From young idealist to sad disillusioned lover, Ms. Neff is luminous as she brings us through the story will her feelings at the closeness of her sleeve. Her love of all that surround her is evident. She is the optimist, but the lessons of life continue to test her will for those she keeps
Mr. Waller is poignant and moving with his portrayal of the gambling, brow beaten brother. Cast aside by his over bearing and misguided wife Nathasha, (Expertly played by Alana Areanas. You could feel the audience bristle when she entered the stage) Mr. Waller gives us a glimpse of a man not in charge of his own destiny. As once thought by his three sisters.
Two exciting standouts in this production are Scott Jacek’s, “Chebutykin” and Yasen Peyankov’s, “Kulygin”. Mr. Jacek is sweet and compelling as the military guest who came to dinner, and stays for years. He is as part of the family as the furniture; old, creaky and in need of movement. He is pleasing and loved in this role. Mr. Peyankov is brilliant as the second sister’s ever present husband. His love for his absent wife is both pathetic and tender, almost torturing her with his steadfastness. He will not allow himself ANY chance that life is different than when they first began. Mr. Peyankov’s energy is pointed and I was thrilled to watch him perform.
With great performances by Usman Ally (Solyony), Chance Bone (Rode’), and Derek Gaspar (Baron Tusenbach) the story moved forward with compelling outcomes. And if you are the familiar with Chekov, it is the every days that bring the questions and the conflicts we may never see coming.
With a great ensemble keeping the story alive and the lovely performances by the timeless and well-timed Maury Cooper and his housekeeping counterpart Mary Ann Thebus; “Three Sisters” invites us all to explore where we are, and what will become of us.
The set was as nimble as it was expansive. The colors on a gray palate, chipped, dry, curling, like an old photo. The house above was heavy and light and the same time. Bravo, Todd Rosenthal , Donald Holder and team. Well done.
Lovingly directed by Anna D. Shapiro this production should be on your summer list to see. The story of family, love, soldiers, and security are as pertinent as they were in 1900. The Ms. Shapiro’s vision of a personal dynamics within the walls of this house was as sweet and sour as our own sibling relationships.
“Three Sisters” runs through 26 August 2012 at Steppenwolf in Chicago. For tickets call 312-335-1650 or visit Steppenwolf.org