When a director pushes boundaries, great things can happen. That’s certainly what John Doyle’s staging of Three Sisters has tried to do.
A high-profile venture for the Cincinnati Playhouse’s 50th anniversary, Doyle’s production uses a new, very colloquial version of Anton Chekhov’s play by the much-admired writer Sarah Ruhl and a team of Tony Award winners and nominees.
Doyle’s production helps us sort the discontent felt by the sisters, fretful Olga (Alma Cuervo), unhappy Masha (Laila Robins) and idealistic Irina (Hannah Cabell), transported by their father’s military career to a rural Russian town, bereft of culture and stimulation.
Although father has died, they’re still mired in a community they yearn to leave behind for the attractions of Moscow. We especially follow Irina’s arc from inexplicable joy in Act I to palpable sadness at play’s end. Doyle moves her about the stage (subtly highlighted by a follow-spot) and her lines, conceived as part of larger conversations, are more often delivered directly to the audience, as if they are her thoughts. Cabell’s warm vocal delivery and piercing eyes make her a compelling focus.