Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Three Sisters

Artists Repertory Theatre **Photo credit: Owen Carey**
May 5 - June 14, 2009


Production of Three Sisters, adapted by Tracy Letts, is set as originally written, 1900 in Russia, but is presented with contemporary dialogue. The play surveys the decay of the privileged class. Three dissatisfied and frustrated sisters desperately long for their wondrous past, remembered now only as a story of perfection.


Anonymous said...

This is going to be amazing! What day is their opening night?

Anonymous said...

May 8th but I believe they are doing previews right now.

Anonymous said...

a lovely set
impressive costumes (save the rubber boots)
appealing cast

the direction was a bit too precious and it seemed as though every cliche in the script was underlined in RED
and that every poignant bit of writing was thrown away completely.

thus, it really missed the mark.

Little Chef said...

I really enjoyed this production! With a few exceptions, the acting and direction is wonderfully natural and committed, and the set is very pretty. Amaya Villazan is charming.

Anonymous said...

could they look any less like sisters?

Gary said...

Anon 8:21, are you kidding me?

Anonymous said...

This is an important production.
Failure is important.
This production quite clearly informs us that while Portland wishes it could pull off this play, it cannot, despite a brilliant set and a newly commmissioned adaptation by a Pulitzer Prize winner.

And it "feels" like it should work, like it may work, like everyone is doing everything they can to make it work and it just does not work.
(Though Michael Mendelson may be a genius, he is alone here, the sole bright spot in a dark sea of valiant attempts).

All Checkov's deeper meanings and indirect themes may be there, but we are so distracted by the delivery system, we simply cannot focus on them -- grasp them -- appreciate them.

This is not a remotely compelling evening of theatre.
Now, maybe it's me, maybe I am completely unable to absorb the genius of it all, but I am the one buying the ticket, so in effect, there is no more valid opinion.

To anyone who "gets" this production of this play, I bow and say, "You are more wise, more patient and a more observant person than I" for I would not sit through this play again if my ticket were a lottery stub for a chance at $1,000.

$10,000 maybe, but I would bring a good book.

Failure is important, and I hope someday Portland will indeed be able to pull off plays of this nature.
Unfortunately, it is we who must endure the attempts leading up to the triumphs.
It is on our nickel.

Anonymous said...

Capable actors - direction misses the mark. Fluff no substance.

Anonymous said...

Talk about fluff and no substance--It would be nice if someone would actually talk about things that worked or didn't work with the specificity that they seemingly so crave. Put your mouth where your money is.

Anonymous said...

Have you read 5:48??
Seems fairly specific.
For me it was mostly that I did not believe anyone on stage --- except the aforementioned MM and maybe Vana O'Brien --- I did not believe the characters because they did not believe what they were doing.

It was people acting like they thought they should act rather than simply being the character.
It was all very phony baloney.
I think folks on here try to be nice. Try to be academic about things. Dignified.

Then you want specifics.
Well it was a lousy production.
You could tell the actors are good, but they were not served by the director.
It was an unengaging experience.
We were not drawn into the characters' worlds. We did not care and therefore we were not transported.

Even when a character professes to be "Bored" there must be a stage energy they exude or we just go to sleep.
An example of a lack of energy would be the older soldier. Not once did he have any militray bearing about him. A choice perhaps but a confounding one.
These men wore medals for a reason.
These were their courtship colors.
This is how they landed a mate.
I saw no strutting, no preening.
For me, a missed opportunity.

For the most part the cast did not inhabit the characters physically -- and as has been discussed, emotionally.
Another exception would be Kenneth Springs. He has the smallest role and made the biggest commitment to having energy and a personality that was more than one note.

To state the obvious, this play was written the century before the last century. There was no TV.
Theatre was a singular treat.
To spend 3 hours in the theatre was fascinating by itself.
When you do something in this century, you need to conjure a way to make it relateable in this day and age. It needs to have a reason to be. It needs to breathe and pulse. It needs to add up to something. Anything. It cannot just be a bunch of words.

Look, the plain and simple fact is that for every Portlander connected with this play, this is likely to be the pinnacle of their career.
A world premier by a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Who is going to top that?

But the fact remains that it just doesn't work.
The director fails to make any effort to make those 3 hours in any way important to us.
Specific enough?

Anonymous said...

When did you see the production cause I disagree. I thought it was pulled off beaufitully body work,direction script all of it. The doctor's speech beautifully touching, the Baron's body work,the relationship of the sister's ,Andrey I did
Not see what you saw and loved this production and felt it moved quickly. For me it did not fail.Rather succeeded.

Anonymous said...

the doctor's speech was lovely.
taken as whole, the play and the role did not pan out.
ted is a wonderful actor.

Anonymous said...

The Oregonian liked it, but then, they seemed to like everything they saw this weekend. Anyone else notice that? The Oregonian is a bit generous with their recommendations lately.

Anonymous said...

The wonderful thing about theatre is that it is all subjective. What one might not like another will love.
How wonderful that there are so many good recomendations for all the live theatre that is happening in our town. To me that means that Portland is exciting and thriving. Don't we need to hear that right now with all the budget cuts,lay offs and the chance of live performance losing its voice? I saw Three Sisters and loved it! I agree with the Oregonian!

Anonymous said...

viva la teatra!!
yes, it is great that with all the upheaval in the world that theatre is getting a fair shake from the press.
the danger of course is that if you entice the new audiences to something with high expectations and then let them down, they will never return.
i still do not recommend this play -- particularly for anyone making a new venture into live theatre.
there are many better choices out there!

Anonymous said...

this is a pet peeve.
it is not important on the scheme of things, it just bugs me.
what better place to air it than here?
there is an equity actor who plays vershinin.
he is experienced and is a teacher as well.
now all the program fotos are good ones.
all sharp and most of them color and reasonably current.
(ok nearly half are b/w, but they are professional shots, even checkov's was colorized)
but this one guy's foto is a disgrace.
it is fuzzy. it is a candid.
he is way young in it.
in the foto he has curly blonde hair.
in the play (and no it is not make up)
he is balding and fully gray.
there is no reason that his foto should be so out of place amongst the others.
no reason.
shape up man.
shape up ART.
sorry, that is my pet peeve of the day.
i really am sorry, but i do feel better now.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree. I thought this was beautiful show. The acting was gorgeous all around. Watching Kulygin make repeated clumsy attempts to connect in some meaningful way with his wife was very sad to watch. If I have one gripe, it's that I want the soldiers' uniforms to be ironed. Other than that, I think this is just darn good theater.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, I did a study on Russian soldier uniforms and found that they ironed them daily. In fact, one could be shot on the spot if wrinkles appeared. This totally ruined the authenticity of this play. Of course, the contemporary language, swearing, modern colloquialisms were just fine. please...

Anonymous said...

Yikes lil' flamer. Instead of Anonymous 12:09, you should be called "Snarky McSnark." Again, it was just [what I thought was] my respectfully-worded opinion. Didn't "totally ruin the authenticity of this play" for me, just something I notjavascript:void(0)iced. Criminy.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! All of these opinions and the play had not opened.

Anonymous said...

The play started previews on May 5 and opened on May 8.

Anonymous said...

Looks like they've dropped ticket prices down to $10 day of.

Anonymous said...

the uniform comment about ironing to totally valid.
anything that pulls you out of the play and distracts you is bad.
especially something that could be solved so readily.
they went to the trouble to build a period plate camera, but can't iron the uniforms?
please indeed.

Anonymous said...

10 dollar rush tickets are very common has nothing to do with the production. I actually tried to get tickets for next Sunday and they were sold out.
Why is everyone so snarky on this site. Sheesh! By the seriously, foto is spelled photo. There that is my snarky remark

Anonymous said...

foto has been spelled foto for about the last 60 yrs or so in the newspaper biz.
just FYI.

but bravo to you for really digging down to try to find something to be snarky about.
i mean, why be alone in that endeavor?

good job.

Anonymous said...

Snark is in the eye of the beholder.

In a big-person market they don't have paper thin skin - they do the work and take the punishment.

Here we commonly skim the surface then cry when we get called on it - which btw is rare as the power cabal in PDX theatre takes great care to never throw serious stones.

that's what's so pitiful in PDX

Anonymous said...

What this site aches for is some posts that actually contain an original thought.

Anonymous said...

to the cast:

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who was NOT a fan of Letts' adaptation? I respect him as a playwright and absolutely love his work, but it felt like he was trying to turn the language of Chekhov into a scene from August:Osage County. I'm sorry, but if you're going to keep the play set in turn of the century Russia, with period set, period costumes etc., you simply cannot have Masha saying things like "Life sucks" and Tuzenbach claiming, "fuck it, let's get drunk." I understand the urge to make Chekhov accessible to modern audiences, but by flipping between the original poeticism of the text and contemporary slang, it made it very difficult to relate to the characters. As a result, they seemed either soap opera-esque or like they were parodying themselves.
I think the actors did the best they could (for the most part) with the language they were given to say.
Maybe Tracy Letts should stick to kitchen sink drama...

Anonymous said...

Now we're cookin'.
No one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, but yes, the adaptation was a problem. And who is going to argue with Mr Pulitzer Prize?
No one.
And so we suffer.

Alison said...



I agree w/anon 11:46 about the adaptation. I thought it was bogus. Also, Seurat? Waaaay too many dots.

Anonymous said...

i wanted to love it, i truly did.
but it was inert.

Anonymous said...

So the Oregonian loved it, the Mercury hated it, and the Willamette Week, fell somewhere in the middle. Followspot? Are you going to see this?
On a side note- We have the three main reviewers all in disagreement (not for the first time).
Here's a question for the masses. In general, which reviewer do you put the most stock in? which reviewer do you most frequently disagree with? Does a rave review or a scathing review from either of them have any effect on you?
Just Curious

Anonymous said...

as a former critic (in another town)
i can tell you that critics have off days too.
they have ulterior motives, conscious or not.
maybe they got a bad seat, or a bad meal, or they have problems in their personal life.

i know of one who reads the scripts beforehand thereby removing any possible discovery or suspense.
the audience doesn't do that, why would a critic?

does a good review make me want to see it?
does a bad one make me want to avoid it?
have i ever felt misled?

what is the solution?
listen to the word of mouth instead.
once you hear something more than once, it is probably true.
look, we all want a glorious experience for our time and money.
reading reviews is absolutely no guarantee of that.

Anonymous said...

nor for that matter is reading this blog.

there is no way to tell the source of the opinion.
is the person associated with the show, or is the person an enemy of someone in it?

is the person 10 yrs old? is the person high on drugs?
by not knowing the source, you cannot determine if you should be influenced by the opinion.

you cannot relate to the author.
you cannot filter their words.
if they are 87 and they loved it, and you are 18, should you rush over there and pay to see it?

good theatre is good theatre, but people do respond differently to different types of entertainment --- how else do you explain the success of lawrence welk?

good theatre reaches, it seems, a very wide spectrum of people.

but there is no way to tell, when you read this blog, if you are going to like what is being hawked, or hate what is being torn to shreds.

use your gut feeling i guess.

i have no answer.

3 sisters was bad and so was into the woods --- as the bloggers generally agree.
but i did not like ricahrd II, which i saw solely after reading all the praise.

now i am reluctant to see some of the other shows that have gotten good posts:

like live nude fear,
uneasy chair
importance of being earnest at B&B

it is somewhat frustrating, as i am sure those folks would appreciate the ticket sales.

theatre attendance is a mystery.

Ben Waterhouse said...

Also, newspapers don't always employ just one critic. I was out of town for the opening of Three Sisters (which I still haven't seen), so Aaron Mesh, our extraordinary film critic, reviewed the show in my stead.

Anonymous said...

That's the only reason it wasn't a terrible review.

Anonymous said...

most of the posts on this site have little to do with the actual show.

"distracted" has 65 posts, mostly about whether leif is average, below average or brilliant as an actor, in general.

"crazy enough" became a debate about portland being a "fame whore."

and "frost/nixon" deteriorated into a debate about the spelling of the word thot/thought.

the "three sisters" thread is now about the task of criticism in general.

the average show on here has fewer than 5 posts.
how then, can it really serve as a guide for theatre attendance?

Anonymous said...

I just counted 24 shows with "zero" comments.
A couple, other than the above mentioned, had more than 10.
One of those threads was a vehement argument over another post which stated the venue was closing, and the words used.
Semantics is a HUGE consumer of space on this blog.

Anonymous said...

In general, I like Allison Hallet and the Merc reviews. I tend to agree with her most of the time. Ben at WW is a bit more hit and miss. I don't always share his opinion, but usually if he really hates something, I will stay away from it. The Oregonian reviewers are pretty tepid except Marty Hughley and Wattenberg. Wattenberg is almost too forgiving at times, but in a field where snarkiness is the norm that's kind of nice.

Anonymous said...

I sat in on a panel discussion regarding the adaptation. Tracy Letts actually worked with someone who speakes
Russian and as far as the lines "fuck it let's drink" among others are actually what it would translate into English. Many translations of Chekhov's plays are scholarly. Are we to say that Russians did not use.these types of words? I don't know I love Checkov and really loved this translation.I appreciated that it wasn't a museum piece.

Anonymous said...

the language was not the problem.
the problem was the direction.

Anonymous said...

We saw it last night and didn’t enjoy it much.
I liked the birch trees, music, and the start—all the actors assembling. The first half was pretty decent, by the intermission I was half-under the melancholy spell.
But the act three fulminating of Natasha, the doctor, and, if I remember right, Irina, pretty much did me in. Too one-note: bellicose, or bitter, or weepy. The theater space is intimate, the often high volume of the actors in Act 3 & 4 seemed unnecessary.
The pace of the story-telling seemed a bit slow and may have hindered. For example, with the doomed Baron there are several allusions to the impending duel, disclosure of it to Irina, and the last parting of Baron and Irina. Our attention was dead long before he was.
Masha was riveting all the way to the end; Olga and Vershinin were good too.
We weren’t fans of the translation. I don’t know what Russians sounded like 100 years ago but I doubt its quite so similar to us. More to the point, most of the characters are struggling against the constraints of their particular time, wanting autonomy yet frustrated. Surely their language should reflect that, the not yet having the right words. Then again, maybe language becomes freer before people do, I don’t know.

Anonymous said...

"Our attention was dead long before he was."

This is the single best written review of the year so far.

xtine said...

i'd like to know who has the fucking balls to actually post a comment non-anonymous. i call you out. all of you. you wanna say something? be smart? be mad? fucking tell us who you are.

i think the show is glorious. if i thought it was shit, i'd say that, too. what disgusts me has nothing to do with portland theater performance, but all this opinion with nobody owning it. my big fat opinion: own your shit! come on!

xtine said...

oh, ps:
the name's christine.
christine calfas.

Anonymous said...

My opinion is that I don't care about yours, Christine. To prove my point, I'm not signing my name. And you're just going to have to learn to live with that. Boo-hoo.

splattworks said...

Dear Anonymous:

"That's a Smith & Wesson, and you've had your six."