NY Will Be Up to Nine Sisters, and Counting

News   NY Will Be Up to Nine Sisters, and Counting
 
Uncle Vanya and The Seagull may be perennials as far as New York revivals of Chekhov go, but 1996-97 is undoubtedly the season of Three Sisters.

Uncle Vanya and The Seagull may be perennials as far as New York revivals of Chekhov go, but 1996-97 is undoubtedly the season of Three Sisters.

In November, Moscow's Sovremennik Theatre troupe came to Broadway with a spare production of the comedy/drama, in Russian with English translation via headset. Now through April 6, Broadway has a star-studded staging of the piece to the Roundabout Theatre. Amy Irving, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Eric Stoltz, Jerry Stiller, Lili Taylor, David Marshall Grant, Billy Crudup, David Strathairn and Calista Flockhart are among the name performers flocking to the story of three young women who really, really want to go to Moscow.

As the new Broadway Sisters began previews, yet another Three Sisters opened in New York, this one directed by lauded downtown theatre artist, Richard Schechner. Using a new, faithful translation of Anton Chekhov's work by Michelle Minnick, Schechner has taken liberties with the time frame. The first act takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia, the second after the revolution, the third in a 1950s Stalinist gulag, the fourth in "the here-and-now of the theatre." Despite these changes, the production is supposed to run two hours, rather than the usual three.

Schechner points to previous reworkings of Three Sisters as proof that the play lends itself to adaptation, from the naturalism of Stanislavski to the deconstruction of the Wooster Group's Brace Up/Fish Story: "In Chekhov's play, everyone makes predictions about the future. Now that the future has arrived, how does it measure up." Schechner hopes to test the play as drama, physical theatre, farce and soap opera by moving it through time.

Helping him will be his company, East Coast Artists, who previously worked on the Chekhov play with 1995's Fragments From Three Sisters: A Work In Progress. That production used a simple set and few props, with the fourth, "modern" act staged as radio drama. This rendition has the performers address the audience directly while, in the background, dialogue from the previous acts -- "fragments of memories" -- are spoken. With sets by Chris Muller, costumes by Lynette Delmonico and lighting by Russell Champa, Three Sisters opened at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club Jan.16 and ran there through Feb. 2. Word of mouth and audience demand were strong enough to merit the reopening of Schechner's Sisters at La MaMa's larger Annex Space, for a 2-week run: Feb. 26 to March 9. Starring are Shaula Chambliss (Irina), Maria Vail Guevarra (Masha), Rebecca Ortese (Olga), Robin Weigert (Natasha), Frank Wood (Vershinin), Jeff Ricketts (Solyony), Lars Hanson (Kulygin), Ronobir Lahiri, John Schmerling, David Letwin, Michelle Minnick, Sudipto Chatterjee and Drew Barr.

For tickets ($20) and information on the production itself, which runs to Feb. 2 at La MaMa's First Floor Theatre on East 4th St., call (212) 475 7710.

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