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Three Sisters

Classical Theatre of Harlem's revival of Chekhov's play tends to skim the surface of the work rather than delving into its depths.

Sabrina LeBeauf, Carmen Gill, and Amanda Mason Warren
with Philip Christian and Josh Tyson in Three Sisters
(© Troy Hourie)
No one can sit still for very long in Classical Theater of Harlem's revival of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, now at Harlem Stage. The characters are constantly alighting from the furniture, repositioning themselves, and sometimes even spinning around in circles. This restlessness may be an outward reflection of Chekhov's theme of discontentment that runs throughout the play, but it's also indicative of the uneven quality of director Christopher McElroen's production, which tends to skim the surface of the work rather than delving into its depths.

As eldest sister Olga, Sabrina LeBeauf races through the majority of her lines without connecting to the meaning behind the words. However, she's much better when not speaking, and some of her nonverbal reactions to other characters are acutely expressive. Middle sister Masha is played by the charismatic Amanda Mason Warren, who does a fine job throughout most of the evening, but slips into an overly melodramatic mode towards the play's conclusion. As youngest sister Irina, Carmen Gill does just enough to convey her character, but doesn't go that extra step to make a memorable performance.

Several of the supporting players make stronger impressions. Reg E. Cathey is terrific as Chebutykin, the elderly doctor and friend to the Prozorov family. Earle Hyman is hilarious as the hard-of-hearing Ferapont, even if his work is limited to a couple of cameo appearances. Also making a strong impression in a minor role is Carmen de Lavallade as elderly servant Anfisa. Josh Tyson is endearing as the baron, Tuzenbach, although he's perhaps a little too conventionally handsome for the part as scripted.

On the downside, Roger Guenveur Smith is miscast as Vershinin, portraying the lieutenant colonel as a foppish airhead. Phillip Christian gives a one-note performance as the socially awkward Solyony. Billy Eugene Jones indicates his emotional states a little too obviously as Andrey, although he has good chemistry with Daphne Gaines' slyly sensual Natasha.

Costume designer Kimberly Glennon has done some nice work with clothing that suggests period while expressing elements of the individual characters. Troy Hourie's set is fashioned from area rugs that initially cover the playing space (which utilizes an alley staging with the audience on two sides), as well as delineating walls and entranceways. As the evening wears on, various rugs are removed or rolled up, suggesting the encroaching bleakness that comes to dominate the sisters' lives.


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