Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters," directed and adapted by TheatreOCU artistic director Lance Marsh, tells the story of the Prozorov sisters "? Olga, Masha and Irinam "? and their struggle after the death of their father to escape the dull existence of small-town life in favor of returning to the city of their youth, Moscow.
Having performed in all five of Chekhov's major plays, Marsh has a strong connection to the Russian playwright and his work.
"I have come to regard them as a contemporary actor's gymnasium. They are all masterful portraits of the human being, captured in all his or her minutiae," he said.
In his adaptation, Marsh has added three additional characters to the cast: younger versions of the sisters who are introduced in a new opening, which he said starts with a "fantasia" movement that "takes us to grown-up Olga's memory of the Moscow of her youth, when the girls were all happy and when their father was still alive."
He said the younger girls are woven into the rest of the play, giving it the haunting feeling of a ghost story at times.
BUILT TO TOUR
Aside from the normal difficulties of staging such a long play in just four weeks, "Sisters" is also serving as Oklahoma City University's entry into this year's John F. Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival, which has presented a series of design challenges, as the show has to be built to tour in case it is nominated to attend one of the festival's regional events.
Another challenge is that all five of the women's roles have understudies who will perform during the Saturday matinee, requiring almost double the rehearsal hours.
"Three Sisters" was selected as part of a predetermined curriculum that focuses on the work of certain playwrights "? in this case, Chekhov or Norwegian writer Henrik Johan Ibsen "? and was chosen specifically for its wealth of female roles and because it has something to say to modern audiences.
"This may seem like a rather narrow slot for a play, but all of our BFA Actors take a class devoted to acting the works of Chekhov, so for us it makes a great deal of sense," Marsh said. "We teach these plays as the culmination of our students' Stanislavski work and also as a bridge into style work, but mostly as a master class on subtext."
He said that Chekhov's plays are so cherished by actors and so dreaded by readers because in print, the narrative doesn't carry the same meaning.
"Only onstage can the full extent of the play's beauty be experienced," Marsh said.
Three Sisters stages at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at TheatreOCU inside Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center at Oklahoma City University, 2501 N. Blackwelder.