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REVIEW: Three Sisters

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Top Image: D’arcy Dersham (Olga), Allison Zanolli (Irina), and Stacy Fischer (Masha).
Photo: Sara Walsh

None of the women in Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters are where they want to be. Not in their careers, not in their love lives, not in their physical location, which is in some provincial town where they were taken some years back by their now deceased father. Originally from Moscow, these women—Irina (Allison Zanolli), Masha (Stacy Fischer), and Olga (D’arcy Dersham)—are educated, cultured, intellectually curious, and completely stifled by their surroundings. They live together with their brother Andre (Jonathan Fielding) who has a troubling attachment to a local girl, Natasha (Winslow Corbett) whom the sisters find irritating and low-class. Masha is married, although in Robert Kropf’s version, we do not meet her husband (Kulygin in the original Chekhov play) onstage. In fact, Kropf (who also directs this production) has chosen to scale back the number of characters from Chekhov’s original 13 to just 8, as well as minimizing or eliminating certain plot threads. The result is a pared down (shorter) Three Sisters that focuses on the angst and frustration of the sisters who seem to be wasting away in their small town as they dream—Irina in particular—of a return to Moscow.

The frustration is stoked by Masha’s doomed love for Vershinin (William Zielinski), a visiting military officer, Andre’s marriage to Natasha, Olga’s acceptance of a position as headmistress of the school where she teaches, despite having no interest in the work, and Irina’s relationship with Tusenbach (Ari Lew), who adores her but must fight another of her admirers. We also see frustration embodied in the form of drunken family friend/doctor Chebutykin (Dennis Cunningham) who hints at his unrequited love for the sisters’ long ago deceased mother.

True to our expectations from the Harbor Stage, there is not a weak performance to be found. The smoldering resentment for lives not lived to their fullest is tempered by moments of humor and joy, and Fischer’s performance as Masha serves as a kind of anchor as her moodiness reflects Chekhov’s picture of life in the Prozorov household. Kropf’s version is certainly simpler to follow and perhaps more entertaining because of that, but it is not diluted in the intensity of the sisters’ despair, which comes across as a constant dull ache rather than an acute dramatic peak. One can’t help but come away with a belief in the impossibility of true happiness, and yet the performances are bright and engaging enough to keep us from our own despair. In particular, Zanolli’s Irina shines with hope right until the end. Ultimately, the sisters will carry on through their struggles. And perhaps that point is as resonant as Chekhov’s darker ones.

Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters is performed at the Harbor Stage, 15 Kendrick Ave., Wellfleet, Wednesdays – Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 5 p.m. through September 1. For tickets ($23) and information call 508.349.6800 or visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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