IU Theatre premiered “Three Sisters” this Friday at the Wells-Metz Theatre. The show runs from Oct. 13 to Oct. 21, with tickets starting at $10 for students.
“I am strange,” Solyóny, a character in “Three Sisters” said when told of his eccentricities. “We are all strange.”
Set in Russia in 1901, “Three Sisters” follows the Prozorov family as it dreams about its future goals and aspirations. Some characters want to attend a university, work somewhere new or get out of their small town. However, their tangled and intricate relationships make that a difficult endeavor.
“It is humanity in your face,” said Tess Cunningham, the actress playing Irína.
Each character’s overall desire is to eventually return to Moscow. Phrases such as, “If I lived in Moscow...” and “Once we’re living in Moscow...” drive home the hypothetical fantasies the characters have and makes their struggles that much more emotionally potent.
“There’s a lot of grief that comes up,” Cunningham said. “Blatant humanity and unapologetically going through what you’re going through.”
Two characters, Másha and Vershínin, are each in unhappy marriages and find solace in fantasizing about being with each other. Later, Vershínin leaves to take care of his drug-addicted wife, saying that it is just something she does to get attention.
Characters throughout the play read into what others don’t say, and as a result have a difficult time progressing towards their goals together.
“The play does not end with them all saying they have an answer," director Dale McFadden said. “They don’t. It’s really about endurance and belief in oneself.”
Along with the interpersonal drama, there are moments of tender family relations and humor. For Irina’s birthday, Kulygin gives her a book detailing the past 50 years of a local high school’s history. Only, it's revealed that he had given her the same book last Easter.
When another character starts talking about the purpose of life and whether happiness is real, Solyóny shouted, “The baron doesn’t live on food, he lives on philosophy.”
Characters discuss marriage, loneliness, laughter, tears and the support they can give one another.
“They’re really easy people to care about,” Cunningham said. “It’s really easy for people now, in 2017, to forget that people in 1901 were people.”
The first act opens with 15 people on stage for the whole act, the characters having their own wants, opinions and relationships. With this level of characterization, making those connections resonate with the audience is important, McFadden said.
“He’s conducting an orchestra of behaviors,” McFadden said. “You have to have large detail and small, intimate detail.”
This is a studio production of “Three Sisters,” meaning the set, costume and sound design are produced in a minimalist style. The set included no extravagant facades or baroque clothing, instead opting for a simpler, more character-focused approach.
“There's a trend too with these modern classics, to get them down to the essence of the acting, the design and the overall story,” Dale McFadden, said.
With this focus on character and acting, McFadden said the audience can expect detailed, involved performances with characters they’ll care about.
“It’s a belief in endurance and the will to go on,” McFadden said. “It’s in our DNA to endure and survive.”
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