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Theater review: 'Three Sisters or Perestroika' at the Whitefire Theatre

May 5, 2011 |  2:03 pm

Three-Sisters-or-Perestroik In "Three Sisters or Perestroika," director-adaptor Pavel Cerny updates the 1901 Anton Chekhov classic to the 1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev and the dawn of glasnost presaged the eventual fall of Communism.

Chekhov's narrative of the provincially stifled Prozorov siblings, their life ambitions as elusive as their hoped-for return to Moscow, has aspects well suited to the reconception. Cerny's translation inserts references to Chernobyl, television, ad infinitum. His minimalist staging, complete with interstitial projections of key Russian events, keeps the characters in focus.

Although the titular actresses look nominally related at best, their rethought interpretations are not without imagination. Eldest sister Olga (gravitas-laden Noelle Messier) is a stoic lesbian comrade. Ill-married middle child Masha (dry, mercurial Olga Konstantulakis) could be a Reagan-era cousin to Tina Fey. Baby sister Irina (emotive Evelyn Lorena) reads more young character actress than ingénue.

Her unloved suitor Tuzenbakh (Mark Deliman) is specifically Jewish, his rival Solony (Kevin J. Ryan) suggests a Brat Pack refugee. Kyle Maloney is fine as spoiled brother Andrey, with Nic d'Avirro's soused doctor and Don Baldaramos' old school cuckold other notables among a hard-working cast.

Yet for all its noble intentions, the reading hasn't gelled beyond the basic conceit, the additions offering few new insights. Andrey's interloping bride Natasha as a mini-skirted proto-capitalist makes sense, but Kelly Kemp's broad portrayal skims the surface, just as Andrew Hernin's soft-focus James Stewart quality creates a Vershinin more eager than ambiguous.

Still, despite a decided shortage of humor, it's an intelligent "Sisters."  Students and die-hard Chekhovians should value this take. Given how it seems half still in the rehearsal studio, that only makes sense.

-- David C. Nichols

"Three Sisters or Perestroika," Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 8 p.m Thursdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 12. $25. (866) 811-4111 or  Running time:  2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Olga Konstantulakis, left, Noelle Messier, Evelyn Lorena. Credit: Mark Deliman