April 14, 2003

'Three Sisters' performances wrap up season

By Deb Hammacher

The opening performance on April 17 at 8 p.m. of Anton Chekov’s “Three Sisters” continues Theater Emory’s (TE’s) research into the work of the famed Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.

The story centers on the Prozorov family and especially the three sisters—Olga, Masha and Irina—who long to understand the reason for their existence. Throughout the course of the play, in the face of the unknowable, the characters search feverishly, bravely and sometimes hilariously, for the meaning of their lives.

In words used as a prologue to one of the great Russian productions of the play, Masha says, “Still, what does it mean? I feel we have to believe in something, or we have to try to believe, or our life is empty.”

Tim McDonough, associate professor of theater studies, will direct the production using a text translated by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson.

“The search for meaning in ‘Three Sisters’ is prompted by the suspicion haunting some characters—for others it is a conviction—that their lives and all their efforts may be meaningless,” McDonough said.

“Three Sisters” is counted among “Uncle Vanya” and “The Cherry Orchard” as one of Chekov’s greatest plays. The playwright, who died in 1904, captured the shifting social circumstances with humor and an acute eye during a time of change in Russia’s history. Despite countless productions and scholarly papers, “Three Sisters” remains a story of existential puzzlement and grief.

“Working so closely on the play for two years, I came to be astounded by the subtlety and suppleness of Chekhov’s work; by the daring sexual heat and unabashed technical audacity,” Wilson wrote in the introduction to his 1984 translation. “The play is forever deep, with startling juxtapositions of mood. If Andrei says life is disgusting, the old maid will enter in the next breath exclaiming, ‘What a wonderful life I have!’”

“Three Sisters” is TE’s final production of the 2002–03 academic year. The research cycle concerning Chekov’s work began last fall with a course co-taught by McDonough and Alice Benston, associate professor of theater studies.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. April 17–19 and 23–26, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 26 in the Dobbs Center’s Mary Gray Munroe Theater.

Tickets are $12.50 for Emory faculty and staff, and $6 for students. General admission tickets are $15, and senior citizen tickets are $13.50. To order tickets or for more information, call the Arts at Emory box office at 404-727-5050.