Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Intiman's The Three Sisters is
Impressive Yet Unmoving

Also see David's Interview with Judy Kuhn

Judy Kuhn, Julie Dretzin and Alexandra Tavares
I guess I have always been a closet Chekhov hater. I know I'm in the minority, as most theatre folks treasure the canon of plays by the revered Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. I was heartened that Intiman artistic director Bartlett Sher and playwright/adapter Craig Lucas were bringing their skills to the Intiman Theatre production of The Three Sisters. Surely it would be better than a really misbegotten version of The Seagull I suffered through some years back, or the starry but static staging of The Cherry Orchard remembered from the late '70s. Well, yes, it is better than those, and Sher, Lucas, and their solid ensemble cast have done a very respectable job. But nearly three hours of whining about life's disappointments and wanting to move back to (turn of the century) Moscow still left me weary and unmoved.

Playwright Lucas' sense of humor, and more accessible style of dialogue do help matters, as does Sher's way with his actors. As the eldest sister Olga, Judy Kuhn is eloquent, and does a marvelous slow burn that builds to an explosion as she listens to the increasingly odious rants of her self-centered sister-in-law Natasha, played with fearless coldness and zest by Kristin Flanders. Julie Dretzin is commanding as the love-starved Masha, though she comes across a shade too contemporary in her angst, as if she had wandered in from a teleplay for HBO's Six Feet Under. Recent UW grad Alexandra Tavares matches her formidable co-stars in intensity and honesty, and is clearly on the brink of a promising professional acting career.

The redoubtable Michael Winters is spot on, as usual, as the usually drunk military doctor Chebutykin. Jay Goede, who has impressed at Intiman in such Lucas works as The Dying Gaul and Singing Forest, is responsible for many of the production's brighter moments as Vershinin, the unhappily married Lt. Colonel who romances Masha. Andrew Weems finds likable edges in his portrayal of the sister's henpecked, weak-willed brother Andrey, and Larry Paulsen makes Masha's cuckolded husband Kulygin more sympathetic than he has a right to be.

John McDermott's scenic designs are a true visual triumph, complemented by Stephen Strawbridge's rich lighting design and Martin Pakledinaz's suitably impressive costume designs. A lot of care and effort went into this new adaptation of The Three Sisters, and for the Chekhov fanciers out there (and I know you are many) it may be a theatrical feast. For me, it's rather more of an appetizer till the next main course of original playwriting by Craig Lucas is dished out.

The Three Sisters runs through July 9 at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer St., in Seattle Center. For more information visit their web-site at

Photo: Chris Bennion

- David-Edward Hughes

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