Mosaic / Reviews / Theater / November 12, 2009

Three Sisters fails to deliver

Neil Blackadder’s production of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters was, in my mind, a disappointment. Firstly, let me say that I understand that an important part of acting in a main stage production (or a black box one) is to learn.

Thus, the production of the play is as much for the actors as it is for the audience, but it is not easy for the audience to be privy to the subtleties of everything that is going on with each actor.

And I understand that the play is also very long, and there are a lot of things to rehearse, so it’s kind of amazing that the actors were even able to remember it all, but the fact remains that the play wasn’t very entertaining.

I noticed that some of the actors were trying to do good work. Sophomore Kate Donaghue’s performance in particular stood out as a bright spot in the play.

However, on the whole the acting suffered from a hefty case of indicating. Many of the lines were delivered in a boring, stagnant way that created no tension. Lines such as this usually indicated between one and three emotional levels, none of them convincing because the transitions between them felt rehearsed, not smooth and natural.

By rehearsed, I mean dispassionate. Much of the time it felt as if the actors were simply going through the motions.

This led to awkward moments in the play, such as when, during a conversation between a few of the characters, all-of-a-sudden Olga explodes, screaming “Why is there a fork on the bench?”

If tension had been properly created in that scene, maybe that outburst would have made sense, but to me it just seemed random.

And this brings me to the issue of volume. Often lines were delivered too quietly for me to hear them from where I was sitting, making the plot somewhat difficult to follow.

I talked to a couple friends of mine who were sitting in the front row the whole time, and they said they had no problem following the story. But still, the volume of the actors’ voices should take into account all the seats in the house.

Then there’s the issue of length. The play was over two and a half hours long, which is a really long time to watch a bunch of people in costume not create much tension on a stage.

On the plus side, the set was interesting. The center of the stage was on a slant towards the audience to increase visibility. And the onstage alcohol looked just like real alcohol. And sophomore Ben Lee can play the piano quite well, as he demonstrated in the play.

Three Sisters was a large, undoubtedly demanding production that unfortunately didn’t deliver the goods. Perhaps it was too ambitious a project, or something else altogether, but regardless it was hardly entertaining. Better luck next time, Knox Theater!

Ernie LoBue

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