Three Sisters, Thirty Trees

The Three Sisters. Anton Chekhov's masterpiece hits the Loeb Mainstage this week in a new translation and what director Peter

The Three Sisters. Anton Chekhov's masterpiece hits the Loeb Mainstage this week in a new translation and what director Peter Sellars calls a "realistic" treatment. "I've tried to open Chekhov up, and allow as many of the meanings through as possible," Sellars says, and the new translation by Maria Markhof-Belaev and him should go far toward that end--it's much more literal than the Three Sisters you've seen before, more faithful to Russian idiom and Chekhov's word patterns.

Other features of the production include the 30 genuine birch trees which line the stage courtesy of the Harvard Forest, Roy Kogan's performance of Chopin pieces to accompany the show, and the costumes--there won't be any; actors will wear their street clothes.

But the real attraction of this Three Sisters is the agglommeration of Harvard acting talent in the cast. "The play really calls for a cast of 15 stars," Sellars says, and from the amount of experience in the cast, he seems to have found them.

The Misanthrope. This is quite possibly Moliere's sharpest social commentary, although it bombed in 1666. Alceste is the misanthrope, a man obsessed with sincerity and full of hatred for polite society, which he considers founded on flattery, mendacity and falsehood. Alceste's love for a flitty coquette becomes his last link to mankind. Inevitably, he discovers her insincerity too, reinforcing his misanthropic idealism and leaving him unloved and unloving.

The Dudley House production is full of good actors; unfortunately, the role of Alceste is miscast and the weak lead seriously disables this Misanthrope. The show lacks pacing and modulations of tone. Alceste's non-stop bombast ruins Moliere's clever commentary on the futility of one sincere idealist's battle against a self-deceiving world. The Misanthrope is a drawing-room comedy, and this version still needs a little work back at the drawing board.

Bonjour, La Bonjour. If you are turned on by sophisticated soap opera--psychological drama to use a more intellectual term--go to the Eliot House dining hall, a psycho-drama in itself, and see Bonjour La, Bonjour.

Writer Michael Temblay centers this play around a young French Canadian, Serge, and his long-standing incestuous love affair with sister Nicole. The real issues, though, are more commonplace: the emotional deadness of middle class life, the desparation of lonely housewives, the struggle to communicate across generations. Though they might sound trite, Tremblay energizes his themes with strong emotions and piercing dialogue.

Director Jeffrey Harper and his cast put on a very creditable production of this difficult play. John Hall as Serge carries the show, convincingly, sounding the depths of his broad part. The other performances range from excellent to mediocre, as they do in most House shows, but overall the production succeeds in portraying a world where incost is not only best, but all there is. If that isn't enough, however, consider your pocketbook--the patrons of the production gave so much money that the show is free.

Die Fledermaus. Johann Strauss distilled the spirit of Imperial Vienna into an operetta with the intoxicating effect of champagne. Unfortunately, Lowell House Opera's production takes a cast of basically fine voices and runs them out of Vienna, and into a wilderness of farce and tastelessness.

The waltzes that flow through Strauss's score are irresistibly infectious, though, even when played with frazzled spirits, as at Lowell. But aside from the dance music, J. Scott Brumit's direction denies Fledermaus's Viennese essence and replaces it with nothing--leaving the actors with a clashing variety of interpretations, including '70s disco, '30s Nazi and Steve Martin.

Opera--even light opera--is pretty tough for college students to put on, however, and if you're a Strauss buff or just can't resist live vocal music, Lowell's Fledermaus might be worth it. But if you're not a vocal nut, and think you'd depend on stage qualities to hold your attention, stay away.

Oh No, No Net. The story of the Circus Maximillian (pun)--billed as "the second greatest show on earth" (joke)suffering from a case of low net profits (bad pun). Its owner, Maximillian Bucks (get it), decides to save the big top from a flop by having his star performer, Natalie Yellowbird, star in an extravaganza in honor of President Wilson. Throw in a Wall Street broker who embezzles $1 million from his secretary, a detective hot on their trail and a chorus of circus clones and, well, the plot thickens.

Andy Borowitz, author and lyricist of No Net, has his own brand of humor (mostly one-liners and weak puns) which may or may not appeal to you. The show can't juggle all of its problems--for example, the script--but the charming performances by female leads Andrea Eisenberg and Amy Acquino may keep you interested. George Melrod as the detective is the quintessential Columbo parody. Unfortunately these individual talents are spoiled by generally weak voices and hidden by a director and choreographer who have conspired to squeeze as much on to the tiny Agassiz theater stage as possible. Fred Barton's music, while repetitive, often sparkles--watch especially for Acquino's solo, "I'm A Bitch." In the end, though, No Net wavers on the high wire, and falls.

Thebes Like Us. Misdirected and acted with varying amounts of ease, this Leverett House show almost makes it. Andy Sellon's words and Andrew Schulman's music intermittently entertain, but the production borders on the amateurish rather than the amateur. This show harbors yet another tap number, yet another '50s song, and puns galore. Dr. Livingstone I. Presume and his nubile but crackers assistant, Rosetta Stone (Jon Isham and Dede Schmeiser), set out to solve the energy crisis, but land in ancient Thebes. The satire's often undirected, and Brigadoon did the end better. Still, audience response has been good, so if you want to watch the innocent heroine "make an ash of herself" (you guessed it, burn to death), have a look.

Public Eye, Private Ear, and The Kugelmass Episode. These three short plays--the first two by Peter Shaffer of Equus fame, the third a Woody Allen quickie--will open at the Currier Fish-bowl this weekend. The first two are treatments of the old romantic triangle plot from two different angles--one witty and sophisticated, the other serious. The Kugelmass Episode is Woody Allen's tale of a CCNY professor who finds himself transported to the world of Madame Bovary. Go see it if you want to find out how, or why.