(from NTS website - Shannon Currie and Stephane Garneau-Monten)Moscow or Bust
by Caitlin Murphy
Anton Chekhov, that titan of dramatic literature, once ventured that “Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.” A master at highlighting the irksome paradoxes of human existence, Chekhov wrote about themes that aren’t only universal but boast a damn decent shelf-life. Though the National Theatre School’s graduating class’ production of Three Sisters often gets weighed down in the playwright’s less contemporary appeal, the company still rallies to find the play’s resonance.
Dreams of Moscow, of course, beautifully stand in for any human longing, and the confusions that desire breeds in us. Chekhov deeply understood how we woefully misinterpret our potential for happiness; as one character reveals: “We are never happy; we can never be happy. We only want to be happy.” The play muses on why our lives seem to always unfold in the very directions we most wish to avoid. Stylistically, Chekhov’s writing is much more heavily expository than contemporary audiences are accustomed to, and the dialogue is quite declarative in nature: weeping women tell us they are sad, family members inform each other of where they work or when their father died, and tired people describe in extended detail how very, very, very tired they are.
In the play’s final scene, the sisters searchingly debate the purpose of life’s suffering, the value of existence. Olga answers with a plaintive and unsatisfying refrain: “If only we knew.” At the same time as the audience nods in sympathy with her wish, we accept that there is likely nothing to be known, or at least nothing that would make the difficult day-to-day any easier. Parodox well-played.
Three Sisters continues to December 15