THREE SISTERS by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Nicolas Billon and László Marton, directed by Marton (Soulpepper). At Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill). To September 29. $32-$59, stu $28, rush $20/stu $5. 416-866-8666. Rating: NNN
Not everything works in the Soulpepper production of Three Sisters , engagingly adapted by Nicolas Billon and director László Marton , but there's lots of powerful feeling, as well as the laughter Chekhov finds in the human comedy.
The sibs of the title - schoolteacher Olga ( d'bi.young.anitafrika ), the bored, unhappy Masha ( Megan Follows ), who's married to the dull academic Kulygin ( Diego Matamoros ), and the innocent Irina ( Patricia Fagan ) - all yearn for something better, be it a return to Moscow or other excitement.
Masha finds it in the married Vershinin ( Albert Schultz ), a philosophical, charismatic officer posted to their small town; their brother Andrei ( Kevin MacDonald ) thinks he has it in Natasha ( Sarah Wilson ), the initially shy, later shrewish woman he weds.
Chekhov's plays chronicle the little points of people's lives and interactions, which, in fact, carry enormous emotional weight. After an opening scene suggestive of a family portrait come to life, Marton settles into a believable realism, with some nicely contrasted two-character episodes.
But not all the elements are successful, for the actors use various performance styles; the director doesn't give a unified feel to their work, so at times they seem to be in different plays. Also, the production's rhythms sometimes feel ragged.
Yet the highs are more frequent than the lows, especially in act two. Taking acting honours are Follows and Schultz as the secret lovers, staid in front of others and passionate when alone. Watch how she holds a pillow when she thinks of Vershinin.
Fagan's Irina grows from naíveté to exasperation and finally despondence. Stephen Guy-McGrath and Mike Ross play her quarrelling, competitive suitors; the latter is especially good at creating an ineffectual nobleman who's at home nowhere. Matamoros's unobservant teacher and Michael Simpson 's drunken, self-pitying doctor best catch the sometimes savage edge that connects the play's laughs and tears.