Three's company

The Three Sisters

By Anton Chekhov
Adapted by David Mamet
Directed by Marcus Geduld
Stomping Ground Theatre Company
78th Street Theatre Lab
236 West 78th St. (206-1515)
Equity showcase (closes Dec. 20)
Review by Jade Esteban Estrada

Excitement, love, and Moscow are all Olga, Masha, and Irina are asking for in the timeless classic The Three Sisters. This production was packed with delicious drama and contemporary flair enough to make the audience forget that this was the long version.

Director Marcus Geduld did an astonishing job of leading the fine actors in this well-staged adaptation by David Mamet. The play resounds with a present-day feel, while never taking away from the true story being told.

Even with the arrival of the Imperial Army, the three sisters cannot seem to escape their dreary existence. The heroines included the brainy Ashley Butler as Olga, who is destined to become the headmistress at her school, while Lisa Blankenship played the passionate Masha, married to a man she does not love. Amanda Baker played the youngest sister, Irina, who ages tremendously in spirit through the course of the play, as the hope of moving to Moscow scuttles further and further away. The actress’s poise and carriage were captivating.

Walter Brandes, who portrayed Kulygin, the devoted husband to middle sister Masha, stands by his woman while she has an affair with an army officer. Recently seen in a Brooklyn production of The Cherry Orchard, the actor was utterly unrecognizable.

Reminiscent of a Dynasty re-run, Karen Ogle (Natalya) was pure evil in her role as the sister-in-law. Her performance aroused the urge to stand up and just slap her. Michael Bernstein, as Andrei, her husband, was charming in his role as the promising only brother whose character deadens as the years pass.

Joseph Jamrog played the doctor with regal appeal. Hugh Grant look-alike Ben Hauck (Rode) was charming and funny in his role and brought a lively wit to the play. The talented Scott D. Phillips played Solyony, who is determined to oppose ever character in the play. His nagging portrayal was often hilarious. Bradley Goodwill played Vershinin, who seduces Masha. His hidden suffocation in his unhappy marriage was strongly felt. Steve Hamm played a hunky Baron Tuzenbach, who dies before he and Irina are to be wed.

Elaine Anderson played the nanny, and had a riveting scene in the second act when she begs Olga not to send her away because she is now old and unable to work. Her performance was heartbreaking. Steven Ungar played her companion, the jolly servant.

The sets (credited to assistant director Travis Horseman) were beautiful and simple, costumes were simple yet classy, and the lighting and sound were effective.

The highlights of the production were clearly the impeccable casting and the extremely fresh direction. So fraught with complexities was the acting that it raised the question of whether these three siblings would have been just as miserable in Moscow.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2002 Jade Esteban Estrada