Horse Trade Theater Group presents
The Assembly’s production of
The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, Translated by Michael Henry Heim
Directed by Jess Chayes
JANUARY 20-30 @ THE RED ROOM
Anton Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, first performed in 1901, is one of the four major plays that he crafted towards the end of his writing career. As the first play that Chekhov wrote specifically for the Moscow Art Theatre, under the direction of Constantin Stanislavsky, this drama exemplifies the changes occuring in Russia at the time through the examination of the everyday lives of three upper-class sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina. On the verge of a revolution in Russia, the three girls, who have been living 11 years in a provincial town, away from their urban home in Moscow, are trying to find their way in this newly evolving modern society, where work is a necessity for survival and nostalgia fills their homesick heartache.
The Assembly’s production of the classic drama, The Three Sisters, attempts to bridge a visceral, voyeuristic connection to the audience with a melding of traditional Chekhovian drama and modern video imagery and music. The actors effectively convey the classical text in sincerity. And the intimate use of the space enables the audience to feel like witnesses and participants in this changing world. However, the overall impediment of the high-tech elements negates the otherwise classical presentation. Even though the company utilizes a harmonious abundance of eclectic antiques and a relatively modern interpretation of costuming, this is not an avant-garde production, and the video journalism business suggests otherwise.
Act I begins with Olga’s sweeping video of the house, where they are celebrating May 5th, the 20th birthday of their youngest sister, Irina, and the one year anniversary of their father’s death. Through a boisterous hustle of activity and the arrival of a new brigade of soldiers, the house is alive with love and optimism. As the drama continues, although there are comedic sentiments, in general, the story that unfolds is one of tragedy, love and loss, longing for the past, and resolve for the future.
Through the course of The Assembly’s version of the play, we observe the story of these three girls through the lens of the encircling community and the garden trees. The Red Room is a unique setting for this four-act play. Ultimately, the interior of the provincial home, filled with antiques, is symbolically stripped away by Act IV to reveal the barren garden in fall, as the girls are split apart to rediscover lives outside of Moscow. The intimacy of the setting allows the audience to be immediately apart of the action and dialogue, as silent witnesses to the tragedies that befall these women.
The cast carries the dramatic, classical dialogue very well. Kate MacCluggage* equally charges the stage with matronly tenderness and a stern brow, as the head mistress and eldest sister, Olga. Alley Scott*, as Andrei’s local girlfriend, Natasha, masterfully humors the girls with her naivety in Act I. As her simpleton charm dissolves in Act II, Alley Scott* monstrously commands the floor with her sharp tongue and biting delegations of her authority.
The Three Sisters features actors: Cecil Baldwin* (Kulygin), Edward Bauer (Solyony), Ben Beckley (Andrei), Kate Benson* (Masha), Peter Feliz* (Ferapont), Chris Hurt* (Ivan Romanovich Chebutykin), Kate MacCluggage* (Olga), Moti Margolin (Baron Nikolai Lvovich Tuzenbach), Susan McCallum* (Anfisa), Brendan McDonough (Rode), Levi Morger (Aleksandr Ignatyevich Vershinin), Emily Perkins* (Irina), Alley Scott* (Natasha), and Steve Stout (Fedotik).
The Assembly’s production of The Three Sisters compellingly conveys the cold, harsh reality of the eroding Russian aristocracy through its simplistic use of eclectic antiques and the calculated set shifts enacted by the cast. The use of the chairs and tables surrounding the space, within the perimeters of the audience, persuasively institutes the invasive nature of the surrounding community imposing on these girls’ home. The unfortunate design and directing choice has been to try to modernize the photography element in the script to incorporate video journalism, which contradicts the overall effect of the previously mentioned conceptualizations of the text. Classic Chekhov is always a pleasure to see when performed well, with the subtleties of comedy and tragedy enacted through honesty and it is so with this production.
The presentation by Horse Trade Theater Group and The Assembly, is currently in performance at The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery), January 20-30, Wednesday through Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm.
Tickets ($15) are available by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444 or online at www.horseTRADE.info
BIOS for the producing companies:
THE ASSEMBLY THEATER PROJECT is a collective of multi-disciplinary performance artists committed to realizing a visceral and intelligent theater for a new generation. Assembly members unite our varied interests in service of wide-reaching, unabashedly theatrical and rigorously researched ensemble performances that address the complexities of our ever-changing world. The company embraces collaboration as the core of the creative process, allowing all the elements of text, action and design to develop side-by-side within the rehearsal environment. The Assembly is dedicated to rooting its artists, audiences, and peers in a profound sense of community.
HORSE TRADE THEATER GROUP is a self-sustaining theater development group; with a focus on new work, it has produced a massive quantity of stimulating downtown theater. Horse Trade’s Resident Artist Program offers a home to a select group of Independent Theater artists, pooling together a great deal of talent and energy. It is also the home of FRIGID New York – the first and only festival of its kind in New York City.