Total Rating: 
May 27, 1999
July 23, 1999
Theater Type: 
Whitehall Theatre
Theater Address: 
14 Whitehall
Running Time: 
3 hrs
Anton Chekhov, adapted by Samuel Adamson
Dominic Dromgoole

 The 10-year-old Oxford Stage Company is offering a production of Three Sisters mounted by the troupe's artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole. He clearly knows what he's doing, for he has given us a glorious show. Two virtues stand out in particular. First, the actors capture the considerable comedy in the script instead of providing gloom and sadness throughout. Second, Dromgoole has assembled a properly youthful cast close to the characters' intended ages. At the outset, the titular sisters are 20 (Irina), 22 (Masha), and 28 (Olga) -- and you readily believe it. No hint of the venerable actresses we often see, such as the Masha that Katharine Cornell famously played on Broadway when she was nearly 50. Consequently a lot of dust is blown off this classic, which emerges with welcome freshness, buoyancy, and spontaneity. Kelly Reilly is impressive in creating an arc from the girlish giddiness of her 20th birthday to the death of her fiance Tuzenbakh four years later. As Olga, Claire Rushbrook puts up a good front while realizing she won't find the man of her dreams.

Claudie Blakley's Masha, trapped in a loveless marriage, exhibits great range, though she suffers most from Samuel Adamson's new updated translation, which requires her to toss about "bloody," "bitch" and "buggery" -- unthinkable in an educated schoolteacher, and more suitable for her shrewish sister-in-law Natasha, whom Indira Varma properly makes insufferable. There is still plenty of sexual attraction, however, between Natasha and her rumpled husband, Andrei. Tom Smith has turned Tuzenbakh into a nicely crusty Scot. The strange Captain Solyony of Bohdan Poraj is especially fine in his declaration of love to Irina. One's heart bleeds for June Broughton's octogenarian servant Anfisa when cruelly upbraided by Natasha for sitting down in her presence. The other players contribute their skills to as incandescent a Three Sisters as one could ask for.

Claudie Blakley (Masha), June Broughton (Anfisa), Michael Fassbender (Fedotik), Paul Hilton (Andrei), Robert Langdon Lloyd (Chebutykin), Michael O'Hagan (Ferapont), Jonny Phillips (Vershinin), Bohdan Poraj (Solyony), Paul Rainbow (Rode), Kelly Reilly (Irina), Paul Ritter (Kulygin), Claire Rushbrook (Olga), Tom Smith (Tuzenbakh), Indira Varma (Natasha).
Sets: Ti Green; Lighting: Chris Davey; Sound: Simon Whitehorn; Musical Dir: Mick Sands.
Caldwell Titcomb
Date Reviewed: 
July 1999