Funny in a really dark way: PTBO Theatre Guild presents ‘Three Sisters’

Winter getting you down? Feel like there’s nothing fun to do in this post-holiday slump? Enjoy a production exploring the miserable lives of the privileged class of early 20th century Russia!

The Peterborough Theatre Guild will be putting on a production of Three Sisters by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. Jane Werger is the director and has chosen to work with David Mamet’s adaption of the play. It will run on select dates from January 17 to February 1.

We had the opportunity to talk to Werger about the theatre production itself and its relevance in the age of movies and television.

So who is Chekhov and what kind of play is this?

“It would have been interesting to know Anton Chekhov. His life was cut short when he died of tuberculosis in his early forties, but he certainly left a treasure of work, as a short story writer, playwright and observer of humanity. Part of that treasure is The Three Sisters, in which Chekhov explores many themes: the tenacity of dreams, the shattering of expectations, and the desire to know. He does so with clarity, irony, and surprising humour. It’s a good play.”

Werger is no stranger to Chekhov’s work, as she regularly used The Marriage Proposal when she taught drama and played the part of Madame Ranevskaya for the Guild’s production of The Cherry Orchard.

“When I decided to submit another play for the Guild’s consideration, I said to myself, ‘Chekhov? Why not?’”

Although Werger states that the up and coming winter Olympics had nothing to do with choosing this play it’s the perfect chance to experience a snippet of Russian culture before Sochi.

The four act play tells the story of three sisters living in a town outside of Moscow and the disappointments and misery that greets them at each turn. The play itself explores quite dark themes but maintains comedic elements.

“Hopefully, we’ve struck a balance between the two, but that’s the challenge of the play… I’m intrigued that Chekhov never stopped calling his play a comedy, but maybe he was just being a joker in doing so.”

The play was probably inspired by the real life story of the Bronte sisters and explores the lives of the privileged class of early 20th century Russia.

“I love the ensemble action of this play. The 14 characters are bound together in an emotional search for meaning that will always be relevant. I love the juxtaposition of lofty thought and everyday actions in the play. The characters philosophize, and they grumble about no tea; they dream of Moscow, and they argue about what’s in a stew.”

The Peterborough Theatre Guild, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, has been putting on award winning plays and performances from around the world.

Why, you might be asking show I head out to see this instead of catching up on the latest episode of that show that you and everyone else watches?

“Live theatre is hard wired in our brain. We can’t do much about that… there isn’t really a conflict between film and live theatre.”

But why should students take an interest in the production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters? Why should we stop watching Netflix, venture out onto Peterborough’s awfully maintained sidewalks, and experience local theatre?

“At the Moscow Art Theatre, Chekhov and Stanislavski fostered a realistic and ensemble approach to acting and staging, which had an enormous influence on theatre everywhere in the 20th century and today. So, from a theatre history point of view, the play is worth seeing…

“And we’ve got love, loss, and human yearning in late 19th century Russia. What more could you want on a winter’s night?”

The show opens on January 17 at 8pm. The rest of the schedule can be found here.

Tickets are $18 for Adults, $16 for seniors and $10 for students. They are available by either phoning (705) 745-4211 or visiting the box office at 364 Rogers St, Peterborough on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between the hours of 5:30 and 8:00 PM. The box office will also be open 1 hour before curtain time on days of the performances.