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Critics love our Three Sisters

posted by Karen McKevitt on Mon, Apr 18, 2011
in News , Our shows

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Littleman-sm Sarah Ruhl's new version of Chekhov's Three Sisters, exquisitely staged by Les Waters, earns rave reviews and the Chronicle's highest Little Man rating! Read some excerpts and then reserve your seats!

“Luminous! Working with a crisp, breezy new English version by Sarah Ruhl (based on a literal translation), Waters' sterling cast brings Chekhov's masterpiece to life as if it were taking place today. And 110 years ago. The action is as firmly grounded in 1901 by the actors' behavior as by Ilona Somogyi's provincial Russian gowns and Annie Smart's exquisitely detailed doll's house of a set… This is Chekhov orchestrated with the immediacy of Waters' stagings of Ruhl's Eurydice or In the Next Room. Its fierce beauty suffuses every moment and reaches for immortality.” -- San Francisco Chronicle

Exhilarating! Ruhl doesn't call attention to herself here. Instead she lets the play breathe with a simple, unmannered approach to the drama that makes it seem shockingly contemporary. She's faithful to the master dramatist, but she also opens the play up so that these "Three Sisters" speak to us as directly as if they lived next door. Waters' production is remarkable for its lack of artifice. The ensemble brings a freshness to each moment, a sense of discovery that lets us hear the play anew. There's a naturalness to the way the drama unfolds, the ebb and flow of the emotional outbursts, that leaves you breathless.” -- San Jose Mercury News / Contra Costa Times

“Magnificent… Held the audience suspended in the liminal space between hope and despair; love and utter ambivalence as well as a bit of humor. Directed with consummate skill by Les Waters and performed by a splendid ensemble cast, Berkeley Rep's Three Sisters is a powerful adaptation of Chekhov's classic that captures the lyricism and ennui of his work in an accessible and compelling production that is sure to be talked about for years to come.” -- Broadway World

“Beautifully staged, deeply compassionate... When you walk into the Thrust and drink in Annie Smart’s gorgeous set, it’s the first indication that we’re in good hands… Waters’ production pulls you in from the beginning and doesn’t let you go.” -- Chad Jones’ Theater Dogs

“In Berkeley Rep fashion, it is a sensational dramatic presentation… classic drama at its very best.” -- KGO AM


Perhaps I've been spoiled by all the fabulous theater at Berkeley Rep, but I didn't like Three Sisters at all. In fact, it's the first play I've seen there I haven't liked. Maybe it's just Chekhov, but it was confusing, boring, predictable, heavy-handed, caricatured. The one line that really resonated was when Olga kept repeating "Head! Hurts!" My head hurt too. I nodded off at one point (a first), and my partner slept on my shoulder through long stretches. I felt the entire audience shared my sigh of relief when the three torturous hours finally ended. The applause was barely gratuitous, and I heard just the faintest murmurs of appreciation from the crowds in the hall and on the street afterward (some of the acting was decent, and some of the sets and costumes were impressive).

I really don't get all the glowing reviews. Is there a subset of reviewers that love any classic theater, no matter how dull? Or is it just that there's always someone to say something positive about even the worst dud of a show?

anonymous Berkely Rep fan | Tue, May 3, 2011

On entering the Thrust Theatre, my husband and I were immediately struck by the grandeur of the set. A propitious beginning. The last Chekhov play we'd seen at another theatre a few years back was pretty ho-hum all around. So when we went to see Berkeley Rep's production of THREE SISTERS, we were frankly not expecting to be totally engaged in what turned out to be a lively and engrossing evening of theatre. With the new translation of Chekhov's masterpiece by playwright Sarah Ruhl, the sensitive directing of Les Waters, the splendid ensemble cast – not to mention the amazing set – we were instantly absorbed into the poignant story of three sisters, each with different aspirations, desires, and personalities, and each experiencing different degrees of success and failure in their chaotic lives at a momentous period in Russia's history.

That a tale set in 1910 can resonate so markedly for a contemporary audience a hundred years later is a testament to the artistry of the playwright and its adapter, and to the brilliance of the director and actors all of whom have given it new life.

Everything meshed perfectly. And we could tell that many others in the audience seconded our emotions when we heard the sound of delighted voices sharing enthusiastic comments that flowed out of the theatre afterward.

We think this production ranks with the best of Berkeley Rep's stagings of classic theatre.

Deborah Dashow Ruth
Leo P. Ruth
Subscribers for 3 decades

Deborah Dashow Ruth & Leo P. Ruth | Fri, May 6, 2011

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