BWW Reviews: Spark Theater Presents Chekov's THREE SISTERS - An Instant Classic
Spark Theater presents Chekov's classic THREE SISTERS running through May 19. THREE SISTERS takes place over five years in the living room of the three Prozoroff sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina. They live in the provincial town their Army officer father brought them to years ago. Now that their father has died, the girls plan a return to their former lives in high-society Moscow. But, the outside world is changing, and the genteel Victorian era they grew up in is being replaced by a cold modernity, for which they are ill suited. As their brother, Andrei, marries a local "common" girl, and each of the girls’ lives gets pulled further into the interia of this small-minded town, these three sisters realize that all they have is each other. Their dreams of Moscow are slipping further away with each passing day. Spark's original adaptation of Chekov's masterpiece reduces the entire play to its essential components, featuring only five women who perform the entire show: the three sisters, their sister-in-law, and their maid.
This show has such a strong, stellar female cast, and each member was so charasmatic. Olga, played by Theresa Reid, was the matriarch and had such a stregnth to her. Masha, played by Lauren Bahlman, was passionate, schooled, and grounded, and, in contrast, Irina (Cassidi Leigh Parker) was bright, optomistic, bubbly, and light. Even with the heavy Chekov content of love, loss, and a constant living in the past, the sisters kept the content light and engaging. Cathy Washburn as Anfisa stole your heart and really made you feel for her. Natalya, played by Timmi Ann Lasley. was humorous, naïve, and engaging. It did bring up an intersting question--can sisters-in-law truly be sisters? When Natalya tries to take control of the household, the reAl Sparks start to fly, and I loved the small jabs between her and the sisters. Act II started with a bang and included a fascinating battle between the opposing sides. With the great fire, the present is still inescapable and must be lived in as the past all seems to fade away. The girls even admit their peril, and, with an interesting power twist in the end, the sisters continue toward the future together, finding strength in each other. I must admit that each member had a moment and monologue to shine, and they really brought it forth. There is only one criticism to this wonderful production. If they had a family table together for decades, they would each have their own assigned chair and would always sit at that space. Instead, the sisters were all over that table, and that bothered me, but only slightly.
When we entered the 25-seat theater, we were greeted by the light sounds of classical music and felt like we were sitting in someone's dining room. This is one of the aspects I truly adore about Spark Theater--the intamacy. It feels like I am witnessing living art, and it is fascinating to watch. I commend the director, Michael Emmitt and assistant director, Bennie Rae Palko, for thoroughly utilizing such a small space. I also love the inventive programs, and, this time, we received vintage postcards. The set was very regal, and they redid the entire room with gorgeous pieces of furniture and a new coat of paint and lace curtains. The set was all about the finishing touches (mirror, photos, gorgeous clock). With a show and set this small, you knew it was all about the costumes. The costumes by designer Melinda Lacy and the CU Boulder costume shop were simply gorgeous and completely appropriate for the era being portrayed.
There is additional exciting news about Spark Theater, Denver's living-room theater company. After spending its inaugural year on South Broadway in the Imperial Building, Spark Theater is moving to the Santa Fe Arts District. Artistic Director, Michael Emmitt, says the new space, a vintage storefront at 985 Santa Fe Drive, is all about expanding the company’s reach while still retaining the intimate theatrical experience that put Spark on the map. “The point wasn’t so we could do huge musicals in an expensive new space,” Emmitt says. “We really just wanted to be able to offer our programming to a wider audience, and being on the second floor cut out a huge percentage of the theatergoing population. We’ll be on the ground level, easily accessible, and in the heart of the city’s most vibrant arts district.”
In its South Broadway home, where Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS is currently playing through May 19, Spark can seat a maximum of 30 patrons. At the 985 Santa Fe Drive location, however, Spark will seat up to 50. “Don't worry, we're not getting too big for our britches,” Emmitt jokes. “By expanding to 50 seats, audiences at Spark still get that one-of-a-kind up close and intimate experience with the actors and text while getting personalized service from our front of house staff. Our patrons have always felt like family and have been welcomed into our home. And that’s not changing.” Actors and artists will be more comfortable in the new home as well. In addition to a performance space that’s double in size, actors will now have their own private floor for dressing rooms, costumes, and props. The flexible open loft space allows Spark to reconfigure for each show, giving patrons something different each time. Spark’s new home is expected to open in the middle of June for special theatrical events and parties. Second Season programming officially kicks off with the Machiavellian comedy, The Love Potion, on July 27, 2012. “From day one, Spark has been about doing things differently,” Emmitt says. “Even though we’re moving, our commitment to developing new works and breaking new talent, and our dedication to being part of a larger cultural conversation in Denver, are things we’re taking with us. We’re so excited that our second year can offer the same great theater and phenomenal value in a whole new environment.”