Friday, February 22, 2013

Off and Running

Vershinin and Masha share a private moment.
We're right in the middle of the run. Tonight marks the first performance after several dark nights. I can say, in all honesty, the cast deserved a break and (based on last night's energetic pick-up rehearsal) they are eager to return to the stage and will bring to closing weekend a rediscovered love of this intricately written depiction of family life.

I enjoyed watching the opening weekend of performances . . . it felt good to finally sit back and view the show as an audience member rather than as a director. It's difficult to completely remove myself from that role, of course, but it does help that I'm no longer scribbling notes in the dark, looking for things to "fix." Handing the show off completely to a crackerjack stage manager, run-crew, and dedicated group of actors is everything I could ask for. It's the golden, yet bittersweet, moment directors work for. There's that point where I have to step back completely and say, "They don't need me anymore." (Fly little birds, fly! - I often joke to myself.) Bittersweet - always.

Tuzenbach expresses his undying devotion to Irina.
I believe that any play worth watching is a culmination of little moments between characters, the discoveries that they make through dialogue and interaction. That seems to be ever amplified within the context of a Chekhov play. There are no heroes or villains in this world. There isn't even a definable protagonist. Instead, we are dropped in to glimpse upon a family for a few minutes over a period of several years. The audience only gets those few precious isolated moments to understand the Prozorovs and their friends.

While Chekhov suggests how the story develops between the scenes we see, we never actually do know how Masha and Kulygin interact when they are alone together, what Tuzenbach is like when he is not attempting to woo Irina, or even what Vershinin's unhappy wife is truly like. In true realism fashion, we are presented with an impression and then given the burden of responsibility to accept that human beings and relationships are far more complicated that anything we can see in two hours upon a stage. This is part of the brilliance of Three Sisters. We witness the changes in the characters and are left to assume how they got there. It's like attempting to piece together the full account of someone's life based solely upon a few random Facebook posts.

"If only we knew. If only we knew."
There are moments in this play where the audience will love each character and moments where they will hate them. These people are selfish, petty, and sometimes cruel. And yet they possess an immense capacity for love, humor, and hope. They're just like us. Are there lessons to be learned from the Prozorovs? I don't know if I would say that, but I do believe that there is something in this play that will resonate with everyone whether it is in Anfisa's fear of being left alone, Andrei's sense of failure, Masha's self-imposed unhappiness, Vershinin's narcissism, or any one of the many, many moments that put together this poignant picture of life.

One of my favorite acting teachers once said, "We go to the theatre to watch people go on journeys that we are too afraid to go on ourselves." I have certainly enjoyed this journey as I have gotten to know the Prozorovs for nearly a year now. I hope that in this second weekend of performances their journey will resonate with the audiences who have yet to see it.

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