Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters

Ora Jones as Olga in “Three Sisters”

This week our little theater group attended the last of a five play series titled “Three Sisters.” The play is by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts adapted the work for an American audience. The subscription this year featured stories that were in some way connected to war. All were very good, but two of them were outstanding. Three Sisters is one, the other was “The March” a story about the Civil War.

I’ve seen two Russian works in my life. The first an opera, and now this play. Both impressed me as being somewhat oppressive. The long cold winters in Russia must make people morose. I don’t recall the name of the opera anymore, but I do recall the ride home from the Lyric Opera House. It was an October night and Chicago experienced its first heavy snowfall. Being so early in the season, there were no plows to clear the roads. The leaves were still on the trees and the snow heavy and sticky. Tree limbs and whole trees came down from the weight. We made it home, but the memory of the opera is dim in contrast. I do remember the entire set being in black and white. The background setting for Three Sisters was in black and white.

Writers proclaim that plays by Chekhov were “born for ensemble.” Tracy Letts certainly gave us an adaptation that is perfect for the Steppenwolf ensemble. The story had moments of comedy, pathos, sorrow, longing, and life emotions. The actors became the characters and were quite believable in their roles.

If you get the chance to see this play do. My little theater group came a way rating “The Three Sisters” the best of the series.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF

Chicago River @ night

Image via Wikipedia

Last night was make up night for our theater subscription. Normally, we go to Steppenwolf with  friends, but when Grandma Peggy and I got the flu we had to reschedule. So, it was solo date night for the old folks.  We bundled up and drove the thirty-five miles to North Halstead Street in Chicago to the Steppenwolf theater. We left early because sometimes we get into a traffic jam that takes thirty to forty minutes to get through. This evening we sailed without any jams and made it from our door to the theater in forty-eight minutes flat.

I pulled up in front of Trattoria Gianni’s and valet parked the Death Star. Gianni’s is across the street and four houses down from the theater. We enjoyed a four-star meal. I would have given it five stars except for the ambiance. The place was cold, and a bus load of women came in for dinner. They made the place so noisy that I had to shut my “state of the art” electronic ears off.

The play was “Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” I had never seen it before, but Peggy  saw the movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This production of Edward Albee’s work starred Steppenwolf’s ensemble members. Directed by Amy Morton who also starred as Martha. Her husband, Tracy Letts played the part of George.

The story is a riot at times, but also filled with dialogue reminiscent of a marital fencing match. It is obvious that this wife is totally disappointed in her husband’s ambition, and he in turn feels she is a nag. They drink copiously to numb their brains from the ho-hum of their lives.

The characters became real, and I couldn’t picture the actors as anybody but George and Martha. They left me wondering if they were as screwed up in real life as they portrayed on stage. This is a very long play and we almost left when the second intermission arrived. I thought the last scene was rather a strange ending. It turned out that there was another act.

I took the opportunity to run out and retrieve my car from the valet. The valet service ends at eleven, and I had visions of my car being towed by some aggressive towing company for being in a place it didn’t belong with me wondering where the hell it was and how was I going to get home. The valet was right there. My car was parked on the street immediately across from the theater doors. I paid him, got my keys, and made it back to my seat before anyone knew I was gone.

The final act started out being just as conflicted as the first two. The plot had us believing that George and Martha had a son. At the very end George plays one of his games and reveals to Martha that the son is dead. She keeps screaming “why did you have to make it end this way?” That got me to wondering if the son was real or did they just create him to make their lives more fulfilled, or was he a character in one of George’s novels. I left wondering if the couple was nuts, or were they in deep grief over the loss of their only son. Now, I have to do some reading to determine if the son was real. Maybe someone will tell me.

Grandma Peggy and I gave the performance five stars, but next time we will wear long underwear so we can give Gianni’s the fifth star.

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