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Theater review: 'Three Sisters' at the Odyssey Theatre

September 24, 2009 |  5:15 pm

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Director Jack Stehlin doesn’t strive for revisionism in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” at the Odyssey Theatre.  However, although his staging is hardly ground-breaking, it is well-paced, satisfying and solid down to the ground.

Over the various acts, Kitty Rose’s scenic design dwindles from cozy parlor to bare atelier to a stark and empty stage strewn with an autumnal fall of red leaves.  It’s a vivid visual metaphor for the play’s progression of inexorable loss.

As is typical with Chekhov, the various characters have their heads in the clouds and their feet in fast-drying cement.  Incapable of jumping off the tracks, they are content to discuss the velocity of the onrushing train.

Unhappily married to local schoolteacher Kulygin (Alexander Wells), tempestuous Masha (Susan Ziegler), falls in love with Vershinin (Tom Groenwald), a career military officer whose Utopian projections distract him from his own marital woes. When the sisters’ beloved brother Andrey (Scott Sheldon) weds the coarsely manipulative Natalia (Cameron Meyer), the family fortunes plummet disastrously. Irina (Murielle Zuker), the youngest sister, may find salvation in marriage. Of course, it’s the play’s great irony that, when Irina finally takes decisive action, accepting one from among her suitors, tragedy ensues.

The cast is uniformly excellent, but certain performers stand out.  As Olga, the oldest sister, Vanessa Waters brings delicate warmth to a role too often played as a pinched spinster. Groenwald’s Vershinin is a larger-than-life enthusiast whose sheer affability is a triumph over sad circumstance.  Thomas Kopache, as the boozy army doctor who dotes on the sisters, captures the exquisite pain of a would-be nihilist whose intractable humanity keeps surfacing.  But it is Meyer, as the deliciously detestable Natalia, who steals the show in a performance of unparalleled repugnance.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

Three Sisters,” Odyssey, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.  8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays.  8 p.m. Wednesdays, Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and 14.  7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8. Ends Nov. 8.  $25-$30.  (310) 477-2055 X2.  Running time:  2 hours, 50 minutes.

Photo: Vanessa Waters, Susan Ziegler and Murielle Zuker. Credit: Jeannine Stehlin.


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