New Adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” Brings War in Ukraine to the Stage at DVC

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Maishia Sumpter, Staff

Anton Chekov’s classic play, Three Sisters, will make its way to the Arena Theater stage at Diablo Valley College starting April 29, marking the school’s final stage performance of the semester.

The play, which runs Fridays through Sundays until May 15, was translated by Gerard Ledger and adapted and directed by DVC drama professor Kathleen Normington.

The pandemic presented many difficulties that affected the creative process for performers and directors alike, challenging the drama department as a whole, Normington said. Even two years later, COVID restrictions continue to play a role, impacting – and at times frustrating – rehearsals, she said.

But as the players take the stage, Normington and her cast are looking forward to the long-awaited audience engagement.

“I can’t wait for real people to be there and have that electricity between performers and the audience,” she said.

The play’s premiere comes at an interesting time. Described as a “clash of two worlds,” Three Sisters, written in 1900 by Russia’s greatest playwright, resonates with real-world events as Russia continues its war in Ukraine.

Normington said she tried to incorporate the relevance of those and other current events into her adaptation, aligning the play with various issues facing society. For instance, she said there would be mentions of the Ukraine invasion throughout the play.

However, she didn’t want the focus to remain solely on those newly incorporated aspects, saying the “brilliance” of Three Sisters is still contained in the timeless themes it presents through the original translation. “This play is a slice of life,” said Normington.

The story revolves around three sisters, who impose restrictions on themselves that prevent them from returning to Moscow, despite their having the means to do so. They languish “in a place of nostalgia,” yearning to go back to a city that they assume will be the same as they remembered it.

Normington said she saw parallels with the current pandemic landscape, as people have felt restrictions while being confined in their homes, driving many to want to go back to the time beforehand.

Normington said themes of memory and nostalgia tie these ideas together, making it relatable on different levels. “Our memory is flawed, and it does not correspond with anybody else’s,” she said.

She explained the rich ways that Chekhov’s play portrays the sisters as “messy, flawed humanity on stage.” While many people have characterized the sisters as heroines, Normington thinks otherwise.

“They are not perfect, but they are a great anecdote of what we get every day in our lives,” she said. In that way, they bring the audience back to a sense of reality – revealing imperfection in a contemporary world that seems often to value only what is perceived as perfect.

“Chekhov wrote this play that explores the harsh realities of life,” said Hank Rugg, a student actor who performs in the production. Rugg said the conflicts facing the characters shed light on themes that are relevant to our society today – something Normington set out to accomplish with her changes to the original play.

Not only did she add new elements that tie in current events, but she diversified the cast to make the audience feel more included.

“Come with an open mind and it will not be the kind of performance you think it will be,” Normington said. “You will be surprised.”

The performance runs April 29-May 15. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. For tickets, call 925-969-2358 or visit www.dvcdrama.net.