BWW REVIEW: Oklahoma City University's Department of Theatre Presents Anton Chekhov's THREE SISTERS
Jess here. This past weekend I had the opportunity to see two (double cast) performances of Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters" at Oklahoma City University. Not having had any prior personal literary or onstage experience with Chekhov before, it was very interesting to be introduced to such incredible writing and character interpretations.
If you've ever read or seen "Three Sisters" you know the show can't be summarized perfectly without a page-long list of characters and plot points. So to save you the trouble, I will just say that it's about three sisters (and a brother, surprisingly) who live in a provincial town in Russia far from Moscow, and their dealings with life and the unfortunate hand it deals them. For the sake of brevity, I will name the characters by their common names rather than their full, mildly-confusing ones. You will thank me later.
Sage Tokach and Onnika Hanson each did a compelling job portraying Olga. Hanson brilliantly played to the grounded, realist aspects of Olga as the eldest and most wise; while Tokach showed the character's desperately hopeful side. Both actors made Olga a gripping force in the show, and each were equally wonderful, and fascinating to the audience. Kaiden Lynn Maines and Cami Grindall were perfect as Masha. With her deep inner turmoil, it is essential that the actor portraying Masha has the ability to show off the complexities of the character, and this capacity was not only met, but exceeded by both performers. Marae Narvaez and Gracie Lewis played the conflicted role of Irina. Irina's character is constantly fighting for the dream of Moscow, yet is continually met with setbacks and disappointments. Lewis did a spectacular job of finding ways to keep pushing for escape, while Narvaez excelled at sharing Irina's anguish that the dream was slipping away.
The demanding role of Andrey was played very well by Dawson Macleod. Andrey's wife, Natasha, played by Jaqueline Bennet and Sarah Keast, creatively portrayed the realistic dynamic associated with those involved in a toxic marriage, along with it's resultant level of damage and long term consequences. Another fantastic example of an active relationship dynamic was Gage Rancich (Kuligin). His undying adoration and loyalty to Masha provided the audience with good reason to root for his character. Austin Wyatt (Vershinin) was a personal favorite. Seeing his ability to establish equally compelling relationships with both Mashas was quite impressive. The interesting perspective surrounding his character's required level of "philosophizing" allowed his monologue interpretations to honestly communicate their true intentions.
Another personal favorite was Matthew Tuley (Chebutikin). Often times it is difficult to see someone young convincingly play someone who is an elder, but Tuley did so in such a skilled manner that it never crossed my mind that has was playing someone much older. In fact, all of the actors portraying senior aged roles possessed this talent, including Gareth Forsberg (Ferapont) and Emily Diaz (Anfisa). The skill utilized by these actors when taking a character role and making it realistic is to be greatly admired.
Along with the difficulty of playing someone older, there can be challenges when dealing with playing someone younger. The three (young) sisters had the task of embodying the siblings in flashbacks, perhaps in a happier time, and making it not seem as though they were college age students. Emma Grey (Young Olga), Anna Wenger (Young Masha) and Lily Marsh (Young Irina) each did a beautiful job of giving their characters' voice without actual written words. Solely physical acting is no easy feat, yet these ladies delivered with ease and grace.
The scenic designer (Dusting Bielich) and the lighting designer (Aaron Mooney) worked very nicely together to make the show aesthetically pleasing. The costumes (by Celia Kasberg) were absolutely gorgeous and beautifully reflected the sisters personalities. The director, Lance Marsh, truly did an incredible job in putting this production together and I am so glad that this show was my first real experience with Chekhov.