Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-De-Ay – a review of “Three Sisters”


By Michael Buzzelli

In Vyacheslav Ivanov’s poem, “Moscow,” he writes:

“Lingering in azure, the clouds
Grow heavy with languid moisture.
The drooping birches show white,
And the river trails along below.”

It’s almost as if Ivanov wrote the poem for the Prozorova’s, the rich Russian aristocrats exiled to a provincial garrison town in the hinterlands of Russia in Anton Chekov’s “Three Sisters.”

Olga (Reighan Bean, alternating with Paulina Bradley) Masha (Addison Keys), Irina (Santina Traficante, alternating with Chloe Gorman) and their brother Andrei (Jay Zhu) occupy an estate with tenants and military troops.

Masha is unhappily married to Fyodor Ilyich Kulygin (Santosh Sooriamurthi).

When Aleksandr Ignatyevich Vershinin (Tyler Guinto-Brody), also unhappily married, comes to town, he and Masha form an intense bond (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

In the first act, the girls yearn for a bigger life, a return to Moscow, and, oddly, the long to be productive, to be of service.

In the second act, life for the three sisters and their brother changes drastically. They are weighed down with ponderous jobs, duties and family obligations.  The three sisters are disappointed in Andrei. Instead of becoming a professor in Moscow, he has settled into his life with his unpopular shrew of a wife, Natasha (Bri Thel), who has taken over the household, bearing heirs for Andrei.

Even though Natasha is busy raising Bobik and Sofia, she’s having an affair behind Andrei’s back.  No one gets what they want in “Three Sisters,” and, even though there’s humor, it all ends unhappily ever after.

Aleksandr Ignatyevich Vershinin (Tyler Guinto-Brody) dramatically recounts a story to two of the Three Sisters, Olga (Reighn Olga) and Masha (Addison Keys),) Masha (Addison Keys),

The Collective, a new theater company founded by Michael Campayno, uses a new adaptation by actor and playwright Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County,” “Superior Donuts,” etc.). It’s a breezier, lighter version, but rife with internal (and eternal) suffering, a Russian “Gilmore Girls” with three fast-talking siblings. The Chicago Tribune called the adaptation, “Zestier and more colloquial.” It’s perfect fodder for the Collective’s first outing.  

The cast, many of them are students of Griffith Coaching Acting Studio (the director’s own acting academy), is excellent, particularly the three sisters. Bean, Keys and Traficante are marvelous choices. At different points in the show your allegiances shift from one sister to the next, and, since it was so expertly cast, it’s easy to root for all of them.

Guinto-Brody’s Vershinin is a charmer. It’s easy to see Masha falling for the “Lovesick Major.” He has poise and gravitas every time he takes to the stage.

Poor Kulygin. Sooriamurthi plays him as joyful, even though is character is a pitiable mess of a cuckolded schoolteacher, wringing the humor out of the scenario. Each time he says, “Where’s Masha?” it’s side-splittingly hilarious.

Callum Williams who plays Staff Captain Vassily Vasilyevich Solyony is only in a few scenes, but the actor is terrific. He has a naturalistic style.

There is no waste in a Chekov play. Derisive jibes and biting barbs wound, ricochet and wound again, like bitter bon mot boomerangs.

Tucker Topel’s set, like Ivanov’s poem, is filled with birch trees. It’s a lovely touch, but sometimes it’s hard to see the actors through the forest of stark white trees with burnished black swatches.

Daina Griffith directs a fast-paced version of a Russian classic. It’s energetic and enthusiastic.

Side note: The play runs concurrently with an all-female production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Gutenberg! The Musical.” Check the site for dates and times.

The Collective has come out of seemingly nowhere, but it has an ambitious and impressive schedule of shows. Bravo and Brava.


“Three Sisters” runs until January 21. If you have a particular performer you want to see in the show, consult the show’s schedule and get tickets here

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