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LA Theater Review

Three Sisters

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Don't ask us why we repeatedly see the same plays, such as this Chekhov chestnut, willingly and happily. Productions of this classic are like snowflakes—each one different, the good ones bringing out delicate details in the sturdy, century-old structure. Here, director Jack Stehlin gives full rein to not only the timeless behaviors but also the old-time ones. The three sisters fall in love and fail at love, but they do so with shame-free petulance, tossing themselves on their beds every time something in their lives goes awry—lacking the skills, the independence, the American legal system that protects us today. Stehlin's staging swirls gracefully around the large playing space, until it gets to the packed dining table, where family and friends and strangers gather cheek-by-jowl to convivially cover the ground claimed these days by texting.

Olga, the eldest sister, is played by Vanessa Waters with a tired, almost desiccated air; this sister has given all her energies to maintaining the family structure. The baby, Irina, is played by Murielle Zuker with an unwaveringly charming young glow. Susan Ziegler's Masha is an emotional mess, seeming to will herself into infatuation, clutching at the chance of romance with Vershinin as a way out of her marriage rather than passively having love come to her. Vershinin is created by Tom Groenwald as neither a dashing soldier nor an impassioned lover but instead somewhat of a glad-hander who would steal any woman's heart, making Masha's choice even sadder. Scott Sheldon digs deep into the adored brother, Andrey, giving us a nerdy, insecure sibling at the mercy of his sisters.

The original music, by Roger Bellon, adds elegance and passion to the production. Costume designer Zale Morris' creations are works of confectionary art. Yes, we glimpse something old, something new in this satisfying production.

Presented by Circus Theatricals at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. Sept. 19–Nov. 8. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Exception: Sun., 7 p.m. only, Oct. 18. Additional performance Wed., 8 p.m., Sept. 30 and Oct. 7.) (310) 477-2055, ext. 2. www.odysseytheatre.com.

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