Milwaukie resident adapts, directs Chekhov's 'Three Sisters'
As he looked through a volume of the works of Russian writer Anton Chekhov, Patrick Walsh kept coming back to the author's "Three Sisters." A long-time admirer of the play, Walsh came to realize he needed to direct it.
Now Walsh, a Milwaukie resident, has attained that dream with his own adaptation of "Three Sisters," opening at the Shoebox Theatre in Portland on Jan. 12, and running through Jan. 28. The production is being produced by the Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative and is also part of the Fertile Ground Festival.
Once Walsh decided to direct the play, he found that every version seemed dusty and old.
"Nothing I found was in any sort of vernacular that sounded contemporary. I wanted to create a translation/adaptation that sounded like how people would talk today," Walsh said.
"So I decided to attempt to make a [version] that was as beautiful, vibrant, hilarious, sad and truthful as what Chekhov originally intended, but in words that sounded familiar to an audience of today," he added.
"It took a while until I realized what Chekhov was going for in his original script, and then it took me even longer to figure out how to make those intentions clear in contemporary language," Walsh said.
Rob Harrison, the president of the board of the the Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative, noted that Walsh has modernized and updated "Three Sisters," so audiences will "see something of themselves in it."
Although the characters in the play want and desire something, they never seem to be able to get the momentum going.
"And yet they still have that dream in their heads. Patrick has restored the optimism" in the play, Harrison said.
"Three Sisters" opens a year after the patriarch of the Prozerov family has died, leaving four siblings: sisters Olga, Masha and Irina, and their brother Andrei.
In the course of the play, the three women seek to change their social lives as well as their physical location, but find it difficult to move forward. The siblings grew up in Moscow and desperately want to return there, but "things inside them are holding them back. Their interpersonal relationships are holding them back," Walsh said.
"Three Sisters" is "such an incredibly hard play to work on. It challenges artists in a very specific and profound way," he said.
"It's been amazing to have such a fantastic, unselfish ensemble to build this production with. Every actor involved is so well-suited to their part, and they bring so much life and joy into the rehearsal room.
"Sharing time and space with these people has been the most rewarding experience for me," Walsh said. Audiences "are going to see and experience Chekhov as it was intended: vibrant, beautiful and absolutely vital to the world they live in."
Sam Levi, a Happy Valley resident, plays Baron Tuzenbach, a German aristocrat who falls in love with Irina, the youngest sister.
What he likes best about his character is that "he's doing his best, and he often tries to lighten the mood."
Tuzenbach feels out of place, but is trying to make sure no one knows he is feeling that way.
Audiences will like the relevancy the play still has, even though it was written over a century ago, Levi said. In the midst of the drama, the characters engage in philosophical debates, wondering what life will be like 200 years in the future.
"We are still asking each other this question, and we wonder if things are going to get better or worse," he said.
Levi has never been in a Chekhov play before, noting that it has been on his bucket list.
"The chance to do this is special because Chekhov is one of the all-time greats," he said.
"I made an assumption that the play was all about sad, rich people. But it's a lot more than that, and it is very funny."
If you go
What: The Northwest Classical Theatre Collaborative presents Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters," adapted and directed by Patrick Walsh
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26 and 27 and at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 14, 21 and 28.
Where: Shoebox Theatre, 2110 S.E. 10th Ave., Portland
Tickets: $25 for adults; $20 for students/seniors. Seating is limited. Visit nwctc.org to purchase tickets and for more information.
The cast includes: Mickey Jordan, Christy Bigelow, Elizabeth Jackson, Dainichia Noureault, Isabella Buckner, Heath Koerschgen, Tom Mounsey, Sam Levi, Paul Susi, Chris Porter, Chris Beatty Rohde, John Bruner, Dan Robertson and Jane Vogel.