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Gerald Carpenter: ‘Three Sisters’ Takes Up Residence with PCPA Theaterfest

Anton Chekhov play runs through September at the Severson Theatre

PCPA Theaterfest is presenting a new production of Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, in a translation by Marina Brodskaya, through September at the Severson Theatre in Santa Maria.

Directed by Roger DeLaurier with sets by Andy Hammer, costumes by Frederick Deeben, lighting by Tamar Geist and sound by Elisabeth Rebel, Three Sisters stars Paul Henry, Karin Hendricks, Elizabeth Stuart, Stephanie Philo, Natasha Harris, Erik Stein, Andrew Philpot, Evans Eden Jarnefeldt, Quinn Mattfeld, Peter Hadres, John Keating, Scott Fuss, Tom Ammon, Kitty Balay, Brooke Martin and Mike Fiore.

In 1940, diplomat and MP Harold Nicolson paid a visit to David Lloyd George. It was decades since the controversial ex-prime minister had been in power. The two talked current politics. “You’re well out of it,” Nicolson said. “You’re never well out of it,” Lloyd George said. “You’re just out of it.”

Feeling “out of it” is one of the main things that Three Sisters is about, especially for the women characters; the sense that nothing much is going on where you are, that the people you see everyday are boring, and that everything interesting is happening somewhere else. For the three Prozorov sisters and their brother Andrei, that somewhere else is Moscow.

It is good to remember that Chekhov thought of his plays as comedies, and so did the first audiences. The trap the playwright has set for us is to invite us to agree with the Prozorovs that their lives are boring, and that nothing is going on around them. In fact, there are continuous emotional storms washing over their menage — there is a disastrous marriage, there is domestic cruelty, there is an adulterous affair, there is a duel.

By the time of the final curtain, the life of every single character has suffered a traumatic shock, and it is only their blindness to the real content of their lives that allows them to complain of the terrible day-in/day-out sameness of it all. They suffer from the disease of Romanticism — the Romanticism that Geoffrey Scott describes in his disturbing little book, The Architecture of Humanism, as “idealises the distant, both of time and place; it identifies beauty with strangeness ... It is most often retrospective, turning away from the present, however valuable, as being familiar. It is always idealistic, casting on the screen of an imaginary past the projection of its unfulfilled desires.”

Three Sisters plays at 7 p.m. Sept. 7-8, 14, 20-21 and 28; at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and 30; and at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sept. 15, 22 and 29.

Tickets are $14 to $30. For single tickets and show times, call the box office at 805.922.8313 or click here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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