Classic Russian Play, “Three Sisters” Gives Us A New Translation

Review by Blair Godshall of “Three Sisters”: NKU

NKU opens their second play of the season with a new translation of
Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” (1901) by Dr. Sharon Carnicke (University of Southern California). This story is told with humor, but it took a bit of time for the audience to warm up and respond to it. That’s understandable, as Anton Chekov’s plays often give off a deep seeded melancholy emphasizing the bittersweet distance between where the characters are and where they want to be. The hopes and boredom of the Prozorov sisters are earnestly played out by a mix of acting and musical theatre majors in director Mike King’s analytical and dramatic production.

We meet the Prozorov sisters who are trapped by circumstances in a small town far from Moscow in 1895. There’s Olga (Chelsea Trammell), the oldest and a high school teacher, Masha (Rachel Kazee), the middle sister, trapped in an unhappy marriage to the pedantic teacher Kulygin (Nathaniel Clifford) and the youngest sister, Irina (Hannah Beaven), ever the optimist yearning for opulence. Their brother, Andrey (Joel Parece), wants to be a professor at Moscow University but settles for gambling and a marriage to Natasha (Gabriela Barbosa–Gonzales), an oddly dressed woman with a controlling personality. With army officers visiting frequently, the sisters have their company to pass the time.

What I enjoyed about this production of “Three Sisters” (directed by Mike King) is the naturalistic human qualities of each of the characters as they try desperately to garner some happiness out of their mundane existence. We witness both the decay of the privileged class in Russia and their search for meaning. The three sisters’ frustration is played out through their longings for a return to Moscow and their unhappy relationships. I did have a difficult time following the story though and at times, it was challenging to hear or comprehend what the actors were saying. I’m not the biggest fan of Chekov’s plays but I do appreciate that his works continue to be produced and interpreted in newly translated and adapted versions.

This is a beautifully decorated production giving all credit to Scenic Designer Anna Catton who seamlessly transports the audience into an exquisite living and dining room in 19th Century Russia. Aaron Burns’ lighting design gives us almost a calming eeriness with the use of blue lighting to echo the night sky.

For more information and to purchase tickets, call the NKU School of the Arts Box Office at (859) 572-5464 or visit