SHOWING : November 08, 2002 - December 08, 2002
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Irina, Masha and Olga long to return to their beloved Moscow – to get out of the provinces and back to city life. This fresh American translation lays bare these hilarious, smart, passionate reflections of human life – as Chekhov intended.
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Like a Vodka Tonic|
Tuesday, November 12, 2002 ||
Is there anything more painful for a theatre audience than a bad production of anything by Chekhov? Fortunately, Atlanta audiences will not be able to judge, since Synchronicity Performance Group's mounting of "Three Sisters" succeeds (for the most part) in breathing new life into what is too often endured as a "long night in the theatre."|
Responsibility for this production's success rests squarely with Director Rachel May and her three leading actresses, Stacy Melich, Hope Mirlis, and Jessie Andary. The play is staged with a minimum of introspective "method actor navel-gazing" and a maximum of humor, real passion, and humanity. I believed these were women thwarted in their dreams, not by society or fate, but by a constant shift in priorities, much like real life (which, if I recall, someone once said is "what happens when you're busy making other plans.") You don't feel these were women constantly doomed to be "longing for Moscow," but were women who continually found the day-to-day joy and sorrow of life to be somehow more important, with "Moscow" continually reduced to that unreachable longing we all feel for the security and peace of our childhood years.
So, if I liked this production so much, why only three stars? Three things provided almost insurmountable distractions: First, the set, while elegant and evocative, provided terrible sight lines and caused severe stretches of disbelief to accommodate the various changes in locale. Second, much of the Video Design, while seemingly setting up changes in time and exposition, was also unclear, almost abstract -- it distracted from what was happening on stage (except when it was used to accompany scene changes). Finally, some of the supporting performances were odd. In particular, Luiz Hernandez' choice to use a boisterous Russian Accent was unfortunate -- it made him seem like an outsider, a foreigner, and this was something nor supported by the text (Yes, he is a Russian character, as are the others -- but, realistically, they'd be speaking Russian, not English with a Russian accent; this would be a good choice only if everyone used the accent). Also Jeremy Cudd came across more like a geeky teenager, than the Baron he was supposed to be. And I could sense Bill Bouris' Dr. Chebutykin occasionally struggling to remember his lines.
In sum, while these problems are not enough to recommend you stay away, they are distracting. They are the unpleasant hangover to the production's main refreshing dose of Vodka Tonic.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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| || Luis Hernandez Responds by Dedalus|
| I received an E-Mail from Mr. Hernandez with the following comments:|
I'm glad you were puzzled by
Rohde too and I'd just like to share my views of the character Rohde that I
portrayed in the play. I'm not sure how familiar you are with Chekhov's
works, but he is well known for throwing in some rather (on the surface)
strange stage directions for actors and directors to puzzle over, which are
crucial for the staging of his plays and not meant to be ignored. The first
stage direction for Rohde in this translation says "in a deep, loud voice
with exaggerated r's" Now, when I saw that, I had the same reaction to when
you saw it on stage, "What the... well, that's quite odd." I'm not one to
simply take things on just a surface value, so I started an investigation.
Rachel is a great director, in that she lets the actors create, research and
try things just to see how they fit. And then she's able to amazingly bring
it all together.
Now, back to Rohde, well, amazingly enough, in almost every single
translation of Three Sisters, Rohde changes names all the time, from Roddey
to Rodé, to Roday, etc. And the stage directions change as well, from
"speaks with pronounced r's" to "with gutteral r's", etc. Unfortunately,
most of these translators don't offer much light on why Rohde talks like
that. So, I went on a hunt. In one book, an author briefly mentions that
Rohde might be of French or German descent, also in another book regarding
Russian dialect, a Russian author writes how when he went to meet an
American Rabbi he wanted to impress with is knowledge of English. The author
writes his greeting in this manner "good moRning how aRe you Rabbi?" Hmm...
though it's only print, not a recording, seems that the emphasis is on the
That piece of information, helped me build the story of Rohde, why does he
talk so loud? Why so much importance on sounding different, pretentious
perhaps? Does he have a speech impediment?
All things considered, my Rohde might sound like he's trying to do a
Russian, French or German accent (I've been asked before)but in my view he
really strives to stand out. He and Fedotik seem to come into the story at
select times, and bring in some strange yet thought provoking elements to
the play. Why does Fedotik keep bringing Irina toys as presents, yet at the
end he gives Kulygin, not Irina a present? Why does Fedotik keep taking
pictures, freezing the action, while Rohde keeps walking into frame? Is
there a ying/yang connection here? So, is Rhode as you put it "odd"? Yes!
Abstract? Yes! A foreigner or a stranger? Yes! Look at Tuzenback and how he
worries about everyone thinking he's German? Would Rohde care? No, he just
enjoys the simple pleasures in life, likes to dance, sing, drink Vodka, play
the fool, etc.
So, in short, Brad, I am glad that my performance "irked" you in some way
and maybe jarred the mind a bit. Rachel May was also a key element in
helping me shape this "odd" character, and in my opinion, she cast this show
perfectly. I think Chekhov wanted his audiences to walk away from the
theatre with all of these puzzling questions as well. I still get some
myself from simply listening to the play every night and repeating my lines."
Well, I'm so embarrassed I could eat beetles. I just love it when I betray
my ignorance of a subject.
I do have to confess my exposure to "Three Sisters" is a lot more limited
than to other Chekhov works, so I was unfamiliar with some of the details
regarding Rohde. I believe my reaction may even be based on some unfortunate
stereotyping on my part -- I hear the rolled R's and I immediately think
Russian. This in spite of the fact that I work every day with a gentleman
from Russia who sounds nothing at all like what I heard from Mr. Hernandez.
I appreciate being set right on this matter.
When all is said and done, Mr. Hernandez succeeded in what he set out to do, and my initial reaction was based on my own stereotypes.
For that reason alone, this production deserves another star.
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