THREE SISTERS

First produced at the Rokeby Estate, Rhinebeck, NY, July 1979, directed byLawrence Sacharow. Subsequent productions include Manhattan Theatre Club, directed by Lynne Meadow, with Diane Wiest and Sam Waterston; and simultaneously at the American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, MA, directed byAndrei Serban, with Alvin Epstein.

FROM REVIEWS OF VAN ITALLIE’S TRANSLATION OF THREE SISTERS

"Jean-Claude van Itallie’s translation captures Chekhov’s exuberance, music and complexity in lines that actors can speak… this is the first Three Sisters I have seen on stage in which the actors did not seem to be doing battle against their words. What becomes clear with the language smoothly crafted is that Three Sisters is extremely theatrical — complicated and nuanced, but far from the pinched, meditative naturalism that has generally been imposed on it. … Finally, though, Chekhov is not forgiving. His plays are so intricately woven that even relatively small flaws tend to mar the whole fabric. The only Three Sistersproduction I have ever heard praised unequivocally was one by the Moscow Arts Theater. Still, if like Irina, Masha, and Olga, we will not get to Moscow, we, like the sisters, do not need to give up on that account. The van Itallie Three Sisters and its ART incarnation present some alternate routes worth the taking." Eileen Blumenthal, Village Voice, December 28, 1982.

"Interestingly enough, both productions [Serban at the American Repertory Theatre and Meadows at the Manhattan Theater Club] use the same new text by Jean-Claude van Itallie, which makes the resulting paradox even more dazzlingly clear... Andrei Serban has bypassed realistic detail and has reached the heart of this adorable masterwork. His production is one of the few glories of the season." Jack Kroll, Newsweek.

"In concert with Jean-Claude van Itallie’s most excellent new text…" Frank Rich,The New York Times.

"Sacharow’s production has a great deal going for it. For openers, there is Jean-Claude van Itallie’s extraordinary translation which is easy, fluid, contemporary and yet sensitive to both the poetry and humor in Chekhov." Jeffrey Borak, Poughkeepsie Journal.

EXCERPT

MASHA: How she dresses! My God, her clothes aren’t just ugly or unfashionable — they’re pathetic. A gaudy bright yellow skirt with a weird fringe and a red blouse! And her cheeks — shiny with rouge. Andrei can’t be in love with her, it’s impossible. He has taste after all. He’s just teasing us...

VERSHININ:... An intelligent educated person is never superfluous – even in a sad gloomy town like this. If there were only three of you among a hundred thousand in this vulgar backwater, and even if you couldn’t conquer the shadows, the ignorance around you, even if little by little you yielded, became lost in the crowd, and life suffocated you — - still you wouldn’t disappear without traces. After you six people like you would spring up, then twelve and so on, until people like you become the majority. In two or three centuries, life on earth will be indescribably beautiful, astonishing. And that’s what we must work toward... And you complain about knowing too much....

MASHA (taking off her hat): I’m staying for lunch.

Published in Chekhov, The Major Plays, van Itallie, Applause Books, NYC; Acting Edition: Dramatists Plays Service.