Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov tells the story of three sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina, and their yearnings to escape their provincial life and return to their former home, Moscow. We follow the sisters and their complicated loves and losses, their brother, Andrei, and his overwhelming wife, Natasha, along with the constant company of soldiers stationed in their town. We see relationships blossom, change, mature, and fall apart over the course of several years when, sometimes inexplicably, sometimes because life intervenes, they remain despite their longing for their beloved Moscow. The sisters and those that surround them are haunted by the past while longing for the future. The joys and sorrows of the present are crowded out leaving them always living in-between what was and what could be.
The play was written by Anton Chekhov in 1900 and first performed by the Moscow Art Theatre under Constantin Stanislavski’s direction in 1901. Stanislavski acted in the production along with Chekhov’s wife, Olga Knipper. Three Sisters represents a crucial collaboration between Stanislavski and Chekhov and established both as two of the most important forces in the world of theatre at the end of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century. The Moscow Art Theatre is foundational in its development of the movement of realism, the modern director, and theories and the pedagogy of acting. The work of Chekhov and Stanislavski are still key influences in modern and contemporary theatre from the directing practices of Elia Kazan and Jerzy Grotowski to the kinds of plays that are produced and how actors are trained.
Sarah Ruhl wrote this exciting new English adaptation of Three Sisters based on a literal translation by Elise Thoron with Natasha Paramonova and Kristin Johnson-Neshati. It was first commissioned by the Cincinnati Playhouse and then was produced as a joint production with Yale and Berkeley Rep. Sarah Ruhl, one of the most important contemporary American playwrights working today, is known for her plays In the Next Room or the vibrator play, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, and The Clean House.