Three Sisters, Olga, Masha and Irina lead a quiet but not content life in a small garrison town of Russia, much longing for Moscow they had left elven years ago. The oldest, Olga, is only twenty-eight, yet she is already considered an old spinster; at some point admits that she would marry “any man, even an old man if he had asked.” Masha, having been wed to a kind-hearted but much older high school teacher Kulygin, is very obviously unhappy with her life. Irina is twenty, beautiful, cheerful and wooed by Baron, an army lieutenant prone to political philosophizing, Solony, an army captain who incessantly tries to put Baron down to make himself look better, and Fedotik, a sub-lieutenant and an amateur photographer. The three sisters have a highly educated and promising brother Andrei, who with his level of education could have been a professor in Moscow, but instead marries a seemingly gentle vulnerable Natalya, who turns into a shrew. The Moscow nostalgia is an ever-present and almost palpable entity like Russian snow in winters – everyone believes that if they could only return to Moscow, life would be so different. They may be right, although we never find out what exactly is holding them up.
The play (By Anton Chekov) takes us through several years of the family’s life and its slow deterioration. Andrei’s wife Natalia takes control over the house and pushes everyone around while exceedingly doting on her children. Masha falls in love and has an affair with Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin, a complex man whose mentally unstable wife tries to kill herself periodically; yet Masha and he can never be together because they are both married. Baron and Solony challenge each other to a superfluous duel and Andrei mortgages the house to pay for his gambling debts. Even the town suffers, consumed by fire. As it always is with Chekhov’s plays, there are neither clearly defined protagonists nor villains, and while no one is at fault, there are no clear solutions. Many Chekhov classics can be best summarized as “the best laid plans of mice and men”, and Three Sisters is no exception. No one’s dreams seem to be ever taking flight, in fact, those who are unable to dream cope the best.
Three Sisters is not a big budget production, yet a well-staged and emotional work of director Alberto Bonilla and producer Richard Mazda, currently playing at the Secret Theater (Long Island City, Queens). Alberto Bonilla says that what attracted him to the characters was “their fallible natures, the fact that Chekhov has written such vulnerable and hopeful yet flawed people against a background of change.” What is truly amazing is that a story which is over a hundred years old never loses its actuality. A century later we face the analogues problems and challenges, lose similar hopes and mourn the same never-fulfilled aspirations.
The talented Queens Players cast does an excellent job of creating believable characters that pull us into the story. We root for them, often for their mutually exclusive desires, we feel their discontent and desperation, and relate it to our own every day struggles. This old classic makes us re-evaluate our own existence and stays with us long after the curtain is drawn. Which is what a good play is supposed to do.
~~~The Queens Players and The Secret Theatre present Three Sisters By Anton Chekhov directed by Alberto Bonilla The Secret Theatre 44-02 23rd St. Long Island City, NY 11101 click here to purchase tickets