Chekov’s ‘Three Sisters’ offers subtle message

By ROBYN ZELICKSON

From left: Emily Fuchs (Masha) comforts Clarrissa Rodriguez (Irina) while Rosa Meronek (Olga) looks on. The play opens April 20.
Robyn Zelickson/Aztec Press

Anton Chekov is a Russian writer and dramatist best known for ‘The Cherry Orchard,” “Uncle Vanya” and “The Seagull.” But another work, “Three Sisters,” may be his best.

Chekov wrote “Three Sisters” in 1900, and the play debuted in 1901 at the Moscow Art Theatre.

The Pima Community College theater arts department will stage “Three Sisters” April 20-30 in the West Campus Black Box Theatre with a cast led by director Nikki Martinez.

Performances will be Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. American Sign Language interpreters will be available April 27.

Martinez said she has always loved Chekov. She was introduced to his work by Mladen Kiselov, a Bulgarian director and professor, when Kiselov taught at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama.

“Kiselov broke open the work of Chekov for me,” Martinez said. “Chekov is very passionate and fun and also very dark. It’s cold there, so they have lots of time for brooding and thinking. But, Chekov has a delightful sense of humor.”

Martinez is completing her fifth semester as an instructor at Pima. Previously, she directed her own company in New York City and spent two years as a member of the Williamstown Theater Festival Non- Equity Company.

She finds the student-actors in her cast to be “committed and hard-working.” Her definition of student success is for them to have an experience and to find a sense of ensemble and family.

“Often in a play, the cast becomes an extended family and that does come through,” Martinez said.

Emily Fuchs, who plays Masha, talked about the challenges of acting in this play, as opposed to some of the others that she has done previously, such as “Dracula.”

“It’s interesting, balancing the dialogue with making sure that my reactions and the way I’m saying the dialogue is genuine,” Fuchs said. “The words are very poetic in this translation.”

Chekov was one of the first sources of realism in theater, as opposed to romanticism.

He used a lot of symbolism and in this play, a lot of emotional conflict that the audience may find very relatable.

“This show is dramatic but in more of a subtle way than ‘Dracula,’” Fuchs said. “Since it’s so relatable, it could be hardhitting for an audience member, so it’s difficult to be right in the personal space of that audience member, as we can be in this theater.”

Unlike Fuchs, Chris Farnsworth is new to Pima’s theater arts program, although he took acting classes with Martinez last year. He agrees with Fuchs that “Three Sisters” is a difficult play.

“Each character has their hopes, their dreams, their failures, and they get caught up in the same sort of things that we can, regretting the past and at the same time looking forward to the future and kind of forgetting about what’s now,” he said.

Farnsworth plays Andrey, the brother in the family. His character, like the others, looks forward to the future without being very connected to the present and is overall quite discontented with life.

“When they do get those moments when they are in the present, it’s really kind of beautiful,” Farnsworth said. “We see that moment of just taking in what’s here and now and real. And then, all too soon, you’re back into thinking about how things could have been.”

The play reflects life in Russia in the early twentieth century. The minimal plot provides a look at the Prozorov family: sisters Olga, Masha and Irina, and brother Andrey. Their mother is dead and their father died exactly one year ago.

The siblings live in a provincial Russian town that is home to a garrison of soldiers. Irina and Andrey long to return to their former home in Moscow, where they lived before their father moved the family in order to take command of the garrison.

Garrison soldiers are often at the Prozorov home. Chebutykin had been in love with their mother and another soldier, Aleksandr Ignatyevich Vershinin, knew their father from their days in Moscow.

Chekhov’s play reflects his own life. His parents ran a grocery store and were very poor. His mother was a wonderful storyteller who entertained her six children with anecdotes from her journeys. Chekhov attributed his talent to his father, but his soul to his mother.

A co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, Konstantin Stanislavski, was the first director of “Three Sisters.” Although the piece was a success with audiences, Chekov’s opinion of Stanislavski’s direction was less positive. Chekov believed the play’s intangibility had been lost.

Many productions of the work have followed. It has been staged in New York, Chicago, Dublin, Prague and several cities in England.

“‘Three Sisters’ has an elusive message,” Martinez said. “It’s about love, loss, longing and despair intertwined. And, it’s about being human.”

Tickets cost $18, with discounts available. For further information, call the box office at 206-6986, visit pima.edu/cfa or email centerforthearts@pima.edu.


FYI

“Three Sisters”

Where: Black Box Theatre, West Campus CFA

When: April 20-30

Tickets: $18, with discounts available

Box office: 206-6986


CAST

Chris Farnsworth: Andrey

Zuriel Lloyd: Natasha

Rosa Menorek: Olga

Emily Fuchs: Masha

Clarrissa Rodriguez: Irina

Hernán Gonzalez: Kulygin

Rafael Acuña: Vershinin

Cole Potwardowski: Tusenbach

Raul Pompa: Solyony

Kyler Weeks: Chebutykin

Nikolas Busarow: Fedotik

Chris Maida: Rode

Drew Frieders: Ferapont

Jessica Palmer: Anfisa

Molly Carrillo: Maid

Taylor Hernandez: Maid

CREW

Nikki Martinez: Director

Maddie Hricik: Stage Manager

Carol Carder: Marketing

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