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LA Theater Review

Three Sisters After Chekhov

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The Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble, whose stated mission is to produce material "through the lens of the artist of color," debuts with this play by Afro-Caribbean playwright Mustapha Matura. He has transplanted Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters" to Port Royal, Trinidad, in 1941, during the early days of World War II. The play is not just a translation, however. Political issues shift the emphasis of the play, which gains extra urgency from the pressures of the war and the quest of colonial Trinidad for independence from Great Britain.

Chekhov's Irina, Masha, and Olga become Audrey (Diarra Kilpatrick), Helen (Yvonne Huff), and Alma (Elayn Taylor, substituting for Veralyn Jones). Their ineffectual brother, Andre, becomes the dissolute and unstable Peter (Terrence Colby Clemons), and his vulgar, domineering wife, Natasha, here becomes the flashy, sassy Jean (Nadege August). Vershinin is now a Caucasian British officer (Douglas Dickerman) stationed in Trinidad who has a brief but disruptive affair with Helen. The piece plays out very much like Chekhov's original, but the importance of Natasha/Jean is considerably reduced, and the ending is a bit less bleak.

Greg T. Daniel directs his able cast with authority and precision, on Shaun T. Motley's handsome set. Kilpatrick's Audrey is physically flamboyant but ultimately touching. Huff's Helen is subdued, and her affair with the British captain never really catches fire. Taylor strives to make sense of the slightly underdeveloped role of Alma, but Clemons' Peter is an eloquent portrait of a weak, alcoholic gambler. August's Jean lights up the stage whenever she appears, which makes one regret her absence from the last act. Other fine performances include Jeorge Watson, subbing for Mirron Willis, as Helen's cuckolded husband; Jason Delane as a violent, pugnacious Trinidadian lieutenant; and Michael Ralph as Audrey's ill-fated political-activist fiancé.

The production is not always totally successful, but it's nevertheless an auspicious debut by this theater company.

Presented by the Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble at the Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea, L.A.
July 9–Aug. 8. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m. (800) 838-3006. www.lowerdepththeatreensemble.org.

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