Theater review: Three sisters

A masterpiece.

The Cameri theater (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Cameri theater
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Directed by Hanan Snir
Cameri Theater, April 11
Hanan Snir and his team have produced a masterpiece.
This Three Sisters looks at Olga (Lea Kenig), Masha (Gila Almagor) and Irina (Evgenia Dodina) 50 years on, still living in a provincial town, still relying on the garrison’s army officers for their intellectual and social stimulation, and still longing, longing to go back to Moscow, their Promised Land.
The production is as fresh, as lively and as funny as if Chekhov himself had dropped the manuscript into Snir’s hands, page by page. And because of that, it is also able to be touching to heart-breaking, with all the layers in between as the wellknown tale unfolds, at whose end the three sisters stand watching as the utterly superb marching brass quintet leads off the garrison.
As always in a Snir production, the acting leaves you both exalted and wrenched to the core; the characters are rounded, speaking as much from their silences as from their words, and talking to rather than at each other so that they are spontaneous, immediate.
Kenig gets laughs just by walking onto the stage, never mind the beloved little schticks she employs. Her Olga is compassionate, wise, ironic, a woman who knows she’s missed the boat to fulfillment as a woman, but isn’t bitter about it in the least.
That bitterness lashes Masha’s soul, leaving room for nothing but heartache and regrets so that when Vershinin (Eli Gornstein), the new brigade commander, walks into her life, she’s totally unprepared. Almagor lets love for him remake her every molecule so even her body changes as her spirit expands.
“Take her Olga,” says Vershinin, unable to deal with it. For Gornstein’s Vershinin, duty replaces life, so he’s utterly unprepared also for the love that penetrates the carapace he lives behind. The warmth he experiences at the Prozorovs draws him like a moth to a flame.
Dodina’s Irina is a woman who refuses to grow up until, quite suddenly, she does, gaining the depth that is hinted at and that will stand her in good stead with or without Count Tusenbach. Igal Sadeh plays the Count almost puppyishly at first, then, as his love for Irina grows, he begins to understand a bit more, and to grow up.
Rami Baruch’s pathetic Andrei broadcasts futility; Natasha is a vulgar harridan, a liar and a bully. Maya Maoz, swanning about most of the time in night clothes, plays her so well you want more than ever to hit her; Dvora Keidar imbues aged Anfisa with both fear and feistiness; Shlomo Vishinsky’s Ferapont, an unrepentantly comic creation is precisely that, as is Ezra Dagan’s unrepentantly ignorant drunk Dr. Chebutkin. Let’s not forget Oded Leopold’s arrogant, social-climbing Solyoni nor Dov Reiser’s self-effacing Kulygin, the schoolteacher wimp who’s Masha’s husband.
Reiser particularly engages us as Kulygin because he leads us from a kind of contempt for his shameless toadying to a realization that his is a brave and generous spirit. Which is, when all is said and done, what the characters and the production itself have.
Like I said, a masterpiece.