Adapt or Perish: “3Sisters”

The sisters Prozorov. Photo by Stratton McCrady

Presented by the Suffolk University Theatre Dept.
Inspired by the play by Anton Chekhov
Adapted and directed by Robert Kropf

Nov. 16-19, 2017
Modern Theatre
Boston, MA 02111
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Script adaptations are like staged, audience-ready fanfiction. In a Boston Sunday Globe article by Sandy MacDonald from August 2017, director and writer Robert Kropf explained that he adapts works to bypass the laws preventing him (and anyone) from making edits. The laws are frustrating but necessary to protect a playwright’s work. If the author is extremely dead, such as Anton Chekhov, it’s difficult to know what his original intentions for a work were without thoroughly researching first.

Kropf’s adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters proves this necessity. For example, esteemed actor, playwright, etc. Tracy Letts adapted Three Sisters for the Steppenwolf Theatre in 2012. According to the TCG website, Letts’ adaptation is a “cruder, gruffer outline of the plight of the wistful Prozorov sisters serves to emphasize the anguish of their Chekhovian stagnation.” Kropf’s, with some exception, could be described similarly. Kropf is in good company but his ideas, just as Letts’ and Chekhov’s, deserve their own recognition. 

3Sisters puts the sisters Prozorov in a near futuristic dystopian library after a global disaster, say WWIII. It is 2019, Moscow, IL and the survivors take refuge in Chekhov’s play. The remainder of the plot follows that of Three Sisters. Kropf’s adaptation has much to say regarding the human endurance of pain resulting from obligatory familial responsibility. 

Kropf’s premise does not work. Without the inclusion of added characters the Dystopiangels, this production could have occurred anywhere. The script does work because it is largely Chekhov’s. Cuts and language edits were made. Secondary and tertiary characters were altered. Solyony’s presence is disintegrated to the point of near obsolescence. Chekhov scholars would swoon at the changes.  

On the other hand, Kropf’s changes highlight Irina, Olga, Masha, and especially Natasha in ways that the original does not. These women aren’t just a man’s understanding of women; they are as much (or as least) people as the men in this production. One might argue that 3Sisters is a more feminist adaptation. Not “a feminist adaptation” but a more feminist one than previous efforts.

The Suffolk students do good work in this production. They are tested by the content and most of the cast was up to it. Others were not, but what is an educational institution for if not to push boundaries, make mistakes, and grow? The student cast and crew should be proud of their work. 


Queen’s Note:
We elected a thin-skinned Nazi to the office of the President who is turning our “democracy” into a fascist, totalitarian oligarchy dominated by the 1%. Trump is a monster. His policies, when he names them, are destructive. His narcissistic behavior is more so.

Congressional “negotiators” released a spending bill that saves the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for Humanities, and National Public Radio until September at which time, the President and his impotent cronies may still cut arts funding. It is ever important to remain vigilant. And, for the love of all that’s sacred, keep creating. If you need help, ask for it. Our existence is our resistance. May the force be with you. – KD

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