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SUNY-New Paltz revives Chekhov’sThree Sisters opening on October 13

by Frances Marion Platt
October 06, 2011 12:00 PM | 0 0 comments | 1046 1046 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(Left to right): Actors Jenna-Kate Carn as Irina, Lydia Nightingale as Olga, and Ally Farzetta as Masha in Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters at SUNY-New Paltz’s Parker Theatre.
(Left to right): Actors Jenna-Kate Carn as Irina, Lydia Nightingale as Olga, and Ally Farzetta as Masha in Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters at SUNY-New Paltz’s Parker Theatre.
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For someone considered one of the greatest dramatists in recent centuries, Anton Chekhov’s plays don’t seem to get revived nearly often enough to be as familiar as they ought to be to an educated public. Set in a rigidly class-structured Russia in the era preceding the Revolution, low on the action quotient and populated by characters most of whom seem hopelessly mired in Slavic angst – or at least, six months or more per year of Seasonal Affective Disorder from living too close to the Arctic Circle – they can be a little challenging at first acquaintance to the contemporary theatregoer. But even when the lives depicted seem futile and frustrated, as in Three Sisters, Chekhov’s dark, ironic wit draws us in and enables us to leave the theatre feeling satisfied, if not exactly cheered. So the excellent Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY-New Paltz is rendering a public service by staging a revival of Three Sisters, opening on Thursday, October 13 and running through the 23rd at Parker Theatre.

Set in the late 19th century, Three Sisters is Chekhov’s comic-yet-poignant look at the decay of the privileged class in Russia and a family’s search for meaning at the dawn of the modern age. The Prozorov sisters, Olya, Masha and Irina, and their brother Andre are sensitive and educated young people longing to find their place in a confusing and rapidly changing world. Exiled by circumstance to a dull provincial existence and financially compromised by their brother’s huge accumulation of gambling debts, the sisters long for the cultured, glittering Moscow of their youth, each in her own way confronting the limited choices of marriage and profession left to her. Tension mounts as Andre’s manipulative lower-class wife Natasha inexorably establishes control over the household, foreshadowing the catastrophic political changes soon to confront the bourgeoisie throughout the land. This grimly funny and powerful play is considered a Russian classic and one of the great masterpieces of modern drama.

”The landscape of a Chekhov play is filled with rich characters and fascinating relationships,” says associate professor Frank Trezza, who is directing the production. “In Chekhov’s innovative plays, plot is put on the back burner. Instead, he presents us with incredibly detailed portraits of characters: their innermost thoughts and feelings. One critic calls the movement of a Chekhov an ‘emotional symphony,’ and I think that is a useful insight.”

A pre-show panel about Chekhov’s life and work will be held on Friday, October 14 at 6:30 p.m. in Parker Theatre. Panelists will include Andre Lancaster and Frank Trezza from the Department of Theatre Arts; Sarah Wyman from the Department of English; and Susan Lewis from the Department of History. A post-show discussion with members of the cast and creative team will immediately follow the performance on Saturday, October 22.

Performance dates are October 13, 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees will October 16 and 23 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 general admission, $16 for seniors, SUNY faculty and staff, $14 for non-SUNY-New Paltz students and $9 for SUNY-New Paltz students. To purchase tickets visit www.newpaltz.edu/theatre, phone (845) 257-3880 or visit the box office located in Parker Theatre Monday through Friday between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tickets are also available at the Theatre one hour prior to the performance.

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