THREE SISTERSNebolshoi Drama Theatre, St. Petersburg
The Three Sisters is a new performance by Lev Ehrenburg, the founder of the Nebolshoi Drama Theatre, whose The Thunderstorm, made an impression on the Russian Case guests three years ago. Ehrenburg works in the tradition of psychological realism, but with a proviso: he is not only a psychologist but also a therapist: he diagnoses his heroes. In his youth, Ehrenburg worked as an ambulance doctor. Now doctor Ehrenburg produces plays by doctor Chekhov. The world of THREE SISTERS in Ehrenburg's interpretation is the world of severe asceticism, military coarseness and order established by the father. Masha loves Vershinin because he reminds her of her deceased father, and Olga loves him for the same reason. Vershinin was contused in the war. Their brother Andrey pigs out without paternal strictness, surely approaching a stroke. Irina is lame since her childhood and too sorry for herself to feel sorry for Tuzenbachas well. In the finale, after learning of Tuzenbach's death, she spins the handle of a coffee grinder, convincing herself and her sisters, broken-hearted after parting with Vershinin, that they "must live". The sisters have yet to decide what to live for in future, but Irina already knows that she is pregnant by Tuzenbach. And the director knows for sure that the sisters will live. So prompts him his medical experience and the Russian saying: "it will all come out in the wash".
In his remarkably disrespectful tragic-comical interpretation of the classical text Lev Ehrenburg manages to bring out Chekhov’s central message: however absurd, pathetic and comical are the lives of his characters their pain only becomes more intensive. In the final scene the sisters for the first time get together in a group, tears are running down their faces and Olga speaks her famous monologue with exaggerated punctuation as though to underscore that the meaning of the text is not to be called into question.
Ehrenburg’s staging of THE THREE SISTERS is a brilliant and insightful psychological analysis and another human effort to answer the question of why “the world hasn’t happiness” and why the most people can expect in their lives is “freedom, peace”? Why are we unable to see the possibility of happiness that is always here and now? And we start to share Irina’s awareness that it’s too late no sooner than the only one who could help us tie the unruly lace has been forever gone?
St. Petersburg Vedomosti
The text was sparingly edited. The heroines don’t let each other call out “to Moscow!” (to imagine that someone could be earnestly longing to go there is tantamount to believing that a decent family can run out of tea). Another key-phrase is spoken by Olga: “Everything is done not our way”. In this production, clever, ironical, rough to the degree of cruelty and unmercifully up-to-date “not our way” sounds like existential challenge. In contrast to the canonical interpretations no music is played in the final scene. Olga speaks her “life-affirming” final monologue like a school dictation, stressing every punctuation mark. One can’t help saying it but one is unable to articulate it. “We must live dear sisters…”
The ordinariness with which the characters set forth their elevated dreams, the total lack of agitation or enchantment in the audience result not from the director’s skepticism but from the fact that everything that happens is purely a family business. Here everybody knows everything about each other and none of the monologues turns out a surprise to the listeners. Surely my dear we shall go to Moscow and no doubt Your Excellency in two hundred or three hundred years people will be living better lives. It would be quite misleading to assume that this ordinariness depreciates the dream. Quite on the contrary it provides certain grounds for this daydreaming (at least it is much more efficacious than the sudden beaming elations in the back lighting). In the bestial world the mulish obstinacy of dreaming and philosophizing is not so much a cod as a yoke. The characters in Ehrenburg’s production are not gushing idiots longing for work they know nothing about. Their daydreaming is as hard, day-by-day and exhausting labor as the works at a brickyard or telegraph office. And some of the viewers may even think that this work is quite important although not accessible to everyone. This labor is within reach only of those who were brought up in the bizarre way. Moreover, in the situation when the director is unwilling to camouflage his “cooking techniques” or “remove the seams” the “super-task” that each of the performers bears in might in every sketch (significantly Stanislavsky borrowed this notion from Chekhovian personages) is a dream per se. In THE THREE SISTERS people come out on stage to hold on to the super-tasks.
The Drama Empire