Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters is a timeless tragedy that finds its three title characters stuck in an isolated provincial town near a military post, bored out of their skulls by their humdrum existence, and yearning in vain to return to the bright lights and bustle of Moscow. The Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern’s improvised production of Three Sisters (on Ice), which uses Chekhov’s masterpiece of Modern Drama as a springboard for sometimes tasteless comedy, is a tragedy of a different sort.
Playing May 3-7 and 10-13 at Manbites Dog Theater in Durham, NC, Three Sisters (on Ice) boasts an impressive array of talent on stage and behind the scenes; yet the very improvisation which promises a fresh, new take on the ennui of Chekhov’s frustrated characters goes too far. The three sisters Olga (Katja Hill), Masha (Dana Marks), and Irina (Gigi DeLizza) — are played for laughs, sometimes vulgar laughs. Katja Hill’s Olga is a sour spinster who gets sourer as the evening wears on and on and on; Dana Marks’ Masha is a Louise Brooks look-alike who wanders about the stage in her underwear with little apparent purpose, and Gigi DeLizza’s Irina is an oversexed little slut who openly masturbates to demonstrate that she’s hot to trot.
Tom Marriott is good as 60-year-old Chebutykin, the increasingly befuddled doctor whose medical miscues eventually prove fatal; and Jeffrey Scott Detwiler plays Andrey, the feckless brother of the three sisters superbly, as a horribly henpecked husband constantly abused by his overbearing wife Natasha (Hope Hynes).
Hope Hynes is a veritable harpy as Natasha; Jane Holding contributes an effective cameo as the sisters’ aging Nanny, who is the frequent target of Natasha’s wrath; Sarah Erickson is suitably sexy as a French maid who seems to have been added to this production for titillation only; and Mark Jeffrey Miller is persuasive as the avuncular Vershinin, the unhappily married colonel of the local artillery battery.
The problem with the rest of the men — Gregor McElvogue (Captain Solyony), Michael O’Foghludha (Kulygin), and guitar-strumming singer Adam Sampieri (Baron Tuzenbach) — is their characters are so poorly drawn that the average viewer will have to consult the play or a plot summary to remember who and what they are in Chekhov’s original drama.
John C. McIlwee of University Theatre at N.C. State does a magnificent job with the show’s turn-of-the-century costumes; but the set design by David Fellerah, John Galt, and Emily Hower and the lighting design by Steve Tell confuse rather than clarify the action. Moreover, director Jay O’Berski allows his cast to take their comic characterizations so far over the top that they fall off the cutting edge of cutting-edge drama and become just another theatrical trainwreck.
The Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern presents Three Sisters (on Ice) Wednesday-Saturday, May 3-6 and 10-13, at 8:15 p.m.; and Sunday, May 7, at 2 p.m. at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina. $10 Wednesday-Thursday and $15 Friday-Sunday. 919/682-3343 or http://www.tix.com/Schedule.asp?OrganizationNumber=150. Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern: http://littlegreenpig.com/season/2006_ThreeSisters/ [inactive 3/07]. Manbites Dog Theater: http://www.manbitesdogtheater.org/2/.