It was a busy summer here at Berkeley Rep: we wrapped an encore performance of Let Me Down Easy, rehearsed and opened Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup, and started rehearsing Bill Cain’s How to Write a New Book for the Bible. But associate artistic director Les Waters wasn’t hanging out by the pool: he was off to Yale Repertory Theatre (after some slight travel delays due to hurricanes) to restage Sarah Ruhl’s version of Three Sisters with most of the original cast seen here including locals James Carpenter, Alex Moggridge, and Barbara Oliver, among others. And they earned some great reviews. Here are some excerpts:
From the Boston Globe:
If done right, as in the incisive and well-acted production at Yale Repertory Theatre directed by Les Waters, “Three Sisters’’ reminds us that few writers have ever seen into the human soul with more acuity and understanding than Chekhov.
Waters has taken pains to ensure that the performances remain grounded in the particulars of each character, so the sisters and their friends register as real people who are grappling with the difficulties and disappointments of existence. Scene by scene, the Yale Rep’s “Three Sisters’’ adds up to a compelling group portrait of characters who, in ways large and small, try to escape the limitations life has imposed on them.
From the Yale Herald:
Yale Repertory Theatre’s Three Sisters, now playing at the University Theatre, is a surprisingly wry exploration of slowly building resentment. Chekhov’s script, adapted by Sarah Ruhl and brought to life by a talented team of actors and designers, brilliantly creates an atmosphere of thwarted hopes and dreams endlessly deferred.
The cast as a whole does an excellent job clarifying the complex backstories and relationships between and among the characters. Natalie Payne’s Masha is especially compelling, slender as a reed but with a burning desire for more never far from the surface.
Other cast standouts are James Carpenter as the incorrigible old doctor Chebutykin (“Solitude is a terrible thing my friend… On the other hand, who gives a shit?”), Sam Breslin Wright as the querulous and gauche soldier Solyony (“In a few years you’ll have a heart attack and drop dead, my friend; or else I’ll lose my temper, and put a bullet through your head”), and especially, Emily Kitchens as a Natasha, who while gratingly cheerful, ultimately proves to be a cold-hearted tyrant in pink.
From the New Haven Register:
Patient theatergoers and Chekhov aficionados will find this “Three Sisters,” co-produced by Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it ran last spring, as three hours well spent. Directed with subtle grace by Les Waters (who, among his previous Ruhl collaborations includes the achingly beautiful “Eurydice” at the Rep several seasons back), this production is marked by a solid ensemble performance that personifies naturalism at its best, complemented by a tasteful production design.
Annie Smart’s set design (love those birch trees), Ilona Somogyi’s costumes and Alex Nichols’ lights make this a memorable production.
From the New Haven Review:
The times when we were made to feel like privileged onlookers worked best—Irina being petted by Chebutykin, Vershinin reacting to a message about his wife, the sisters gossiping about their brother Andrei—and one of the marvels of the play is that every character—in a cast of thirteen—gets at least one “moment” to impress a personality upon us. For that reason, it’s a play where “the support” is extremely important, and much commendation goes to James Carpenter as the fond, drunk, irascible, and perhaps even wise Chebutykin, to Sam Brelin Wright as the dour, mocking and ultimately dangerous Lermontov-wannabe Solyony, to Barbara Oliver, a figure of focused pathos as the used-up servant Anfisa, to Richard Farrell as the servant Ferapont, exhausted by indulging his superiors’ whims, and especially to Emily Kitchens as the repellently selfish Natasha, first Andrei’s fiancée, then wife, whose passive aggressiveness and single-minded conquest of the Pozorov household is both comic and chilling. A word too for the young soldiers: as the boisterous Fedotik, Brian Wiles knows how to fill a space, and as the more bashful Rode, Josiah Bania made the most of his parting echoes.
Les is back at the Berkeley Rep campus, ready for a new season, and sporting a very Russian-like beard. Welcome home!