Could there be a better place for dreams to come true than on Broadway? While San Antonio, Texas may not be next highest on the list for wish-fulfillment, that’s where Lisabette Cartwright, Holly Seabé, and Casey Mulgraw find themselves in order to star in a production of Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters.
Each one following a personal dream, they become part of a collage of desires and drives. Unfortunately, as the play runs into problem after problem, they’re forced to admit that even a unified front may receive only an imperfect reward for its troubles.
While each of the protagonists seem to fall in with the classic archetype of the three (the innocent Lisabette played by Robin Hodge, the vivacious Holly played by Shawna Pasini, and the matronly Casey played by Robin Guy), they slowly reveal certain nuances that come to undermine our expectations of them, as well as their own expectations of each other.
While the first act may seem a bit scattered, the second act works to tie some of the larger themes together, particularly when Hodge, Pasini, and Guy take a moment to recite a particular scene from The Three Sisters, having achieved a kind of sisterhood themselves.
The set is effectively minimalist, with visible scene changes going on around the actresses as they move about stage. This works to acknowledge the fact that this is a play, a fact which soon becomes important, as Anton is awash with meta-narratives.
Already a play about a play, with the introduction of Joby, played by Alexis Scott, the veil is pulled back even further, turning it into a play about a play about a play.
When you first hear the voice shouting from the audience, you cringe, hoping that it’s actually a part of the play. Don’t worry, despite the believable irritation of the cast, it most certainly is, with Joby being the hammer they use to break down the fourth wall and acknowledge the audience, instead of treating them as the usual group of invisible, omnipresent spectators.
While offering a few awkward moments, such as the staged praise she offers for Anton in Show Business as “a non-biased member of the audience,” Joby’s comments tease out some of the broader questions in this performance. Why are we here? Why are we doing this? Why are we bothering to try when odds and human nature seemed stacked against us? Questions made all the more interesting when they impact not only the characters of this performance, but “the actresses themselves” when they halt the performance to deal with Joby.
Something else that makes this production and the Three Sisters Theatre Company of special interest is its all female cast and crew. After noticing a particular trend in the Ottawa theatre scene, the Three Sisters Theatre Company has worked to produce works that pass what’s known as the Bechdel Test, the criteria of which requires 1)at least two (ideally named) female characters who 2)have a conversation with each other about 3)something other than the other male characters. Easy enough criteria to meet, one would think, but the reality is that it often isn’t.
This play, however, aces the test with little trouble.