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'Sisters' of Hope

A Chekhov adaptation at the Open Fist features deft portrayals with a few rough transitions.

November 30, 2000|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters" at the Open Fist Theatre Company, director Florinel Fatulescu begins with the sisters lined up, and the eldest, Olga (Arizona Brooks), making wild-eyed pronouncements to the audience.

This Brechtian device dissolves into more realistic portrayals of the doomed-to-spinsterhood Olga, the unhappily married Masha (Alisa Wilson) and the childishly enthusiastic Irina (Chelsea Hackett). They have pinned their hopes on their only brother, Andrei (Martin Bedoian), and they pine for the beautiful life in Moscow.

When a lieutenant colonel, Alexander (Rod Sell), comes from Moscow, the sisters worshipfully whisper "Moscow," each touching him as if to gather remnants of enchanted dust from the glorious capital city life. But over the next four years, familiarity fades this illusion and many others.

Andrei marries a woman who turns into a shrew, played with a fierce, snippy juxtaposition of false faces and smiles by Amy Edlin. Brooks' Olga is patient and finally world-weary. Lawrence's Fyodor is pragmatic--sadness and jealousy don't filter into his consciousness even when acknowledging his wife's love for Alexander. But not all the acting and acting styles mesh comfortably.

Some of the action takes place upstage, behind a screen that changes its translucency depending on Leif E. Gantvoort's sensitive lighting design. In this manner, Yevgenia Nayberg and Fatulescu's set design allows for a subtle layering of images that at times verges on poetic. But Fatulescu's beginning and ending--with the three sisters lined up, directly addressing the audience--need smoother transitions.

Still, there are touching moments of tragedy and comedy, along with deft portrayals of people worn down by daily life and clinging to hope, that are well worth seeing.

* "The Three Sisters," Open Fist Theatre, 1625 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Dec. 16. $15. (323) 882-6912. Running time: 3 hours.

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