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What Did You Think of Three Sisters

Thank you for attending our presentation of Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg’s production of Three Sisters.


Lev Dodin has built a reputation around the world as a director who specializes in surprising audiences with the way in which he highlights themes in classic texts. From Chekhov to Tennessee Williams – he is known as a master of not just Russian theater but the world canon.

Where you familiar to the story before you arrived?

What surprised you?

Chekhov’s characters are often assumed to be static and stoic, would you agree?

Can  we ever truly know happiness in our lives or can we only hope to make it possible for future generations to feel happiness? Is optimism in the future enough to endure the struggle of daily life?

Thanks again for joining us! Leave your answers in the comments!


  1. I was very disappointed by the conservative, mediocre, and extremely old fashioned realization of the text which otherwise offers an abundance of possibilities. It felt like the past 90 years of performance studies had not happened yet. An extremely limited and boxed in production. I walked out sad and disappointed!

    • I’m sorry to hear that you were disappointed by last night’s performance of Three Sisters. The production certainly is on the more traditional side, even in the scope of the director’s body of work. Are you familiar with Lev Dodin and the work of the Maly Drama Theatre?

      As we program season we try to bring in a mix of interpretations of the classics. Sometimes it’s a 90 minute Twelfth Night with pizza flying across the stage and sometimes it’s an original practices Hamlet brought by Shakespeare’s Globe. We’re really excited about bringing in more work from Russia and other Eastern European cultures and a classic interpretation of a classic text is just the beginning.

      If you are interested in classics with new breath in them please do check out The Beckett Trilogy featuring Lisa Dwan. Her interpretation of Not I takes a previously 14 minute monologue down to 9 minutes.

    • Kathleen StoneMarch 4, 2016 at 9:27 am

      I completely agree. It was overwrought and dated, with an overabundance of exposition and very little action. I left not caring a wit about the characters.

  2. jennifer jonesMarch 3, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Best Chekov I’ve ever seen. The Russians get it!

  3. Joy PearsonMarch 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    I enjoyed having gone. I had read most of the play beforehand, at least the text that ArtsEmerson sent me a link for. I don’t know if that’s the exact play or not. I assumed it was. The minimalist set did not distract me. It was like reading the play – things are left to the imagination. I DID find that the philosophizing was stronger when viewing the play than when reading the text. It was a memorable evening for me.

    One footnote: I’ve never had to wait in such a line to pick up my tickets before. That seemed a bit inefficient.

    • Hi Joy,

      Glad you enjoyed the performance. Those moments where the imagination is allowed to fill in the rest is one of the great joys of live theatre. A room full of people are suspending disbelief and creating hundreds of interpretations all at once.

      I apologize for the Will Call line – I know it can get pretty lengthy and as you saw, the lobby doesn’t have a lot of room to hold people. We’re always trying to find ways to make the experience of picking up tickets more efficient. Thanks for your patience as we find the best solution.

  4. Phyllis GlazermanMarch 4, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I’ve seen the play a few times. Each play has been different. This one was amazing and will linger in my mind. I found that the emotions were bottled up inside the characters. More was said in a look, a gesture than in words, although there were plenty of words. One sister, in love with her sister’s schoolteacher husband explodes with desire with a kiss, and then crumpled and writhed with passion as he walked away. I haven’t seen such inner pain communicated from a stage. All the acting was superb.
    About the box office, my husband and I made a big mistake. We came on the wrong night. The box office couldn’t have dealt with our problem in a better way. They were understanding and efficient, and the ticket taker was alert to the mistake when she noticed the date, which was incorrect. The box office tore up those tickets and gave us new ones for the night’s performance.
    One other thing–I’m a little hard of hearing, and I loved having the dialog to read. I always miss things at plays I attend. I wish all English plays did this.

  5. Marina KatsevaMarch 5, 2016 at 7:25 am

    It was terribly boring. I left during intermission. I was frustrated with actors speech and general behavior on stage. I am from Russia, know and love Chekhov very much, but I preferred to look at the subtitles then listen to such a far interpretation of the writer. MDT is the most famous theater in modern Russia. I have never seen it and was waiting for meeting with it impatiently… and such a disappointment!

    However, it was a pleasure to notice excellent service which the Majestic staff provided us from beginning to end. Thank you.

  6. LISBET TAYLORMarch 5, 2016 at 9:56 am

    I left at intermission, totally bored and disappointed! This is atypical of my experience at ArtsEmerson performances.

    There was nothing to make me care about any of the characters. Perhaps if I were Russian I would have gotten it.

    Ah well, 1 out of a gazillion is not a bad thing!

  7. Lena NovackMarch 5, 2016 at 10:02 am

    The traditional interpretation of Checkov seems the only one to work for this play. This is when you really get the Russian character.
    Acting is brilliant.

  8. My wife and I enjoyed this performance. One can agree or disagree with some of Lev Dodin’s decisions but the spirit of Chekhov was there and the actors played well. I wish I knew beforehand that Ksenia Rappoport (Masha) was playing as she is really a great actress. I would have brought some flowers for her as a matter of appreciation (Russian tradition). Also being from Russian origin I must say that the big drawback for English speaking spectators were the subtitles. The translation was not only minimal and did not do justice to the text of the play it was at times wrong. Masha had thought her would be husband was the smartest, not the “cleverest” person when she met him and so on and so forth. I would suggest that English speaking spectators get themselves familiar with the text before they attend the performance.

  9. I love Chekov and enjoyed the play a lot. However, the sound (without microphones) does not carry well throughout this theater. As a native Russian speaker I was more interested in the dialogue than the subtitles. It was a little difficult to hear and I imagine rows further or higher would have had even more trouble.

  10. Rich FerranteMarch 5, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Yes, it was traditional, but that’s what I was expecting, so it was enjoyable. The acting and staging was strong.

    Minimal sets generally work for me, but I wish the “subtitles” had been placed differently. I was in row G and if I tried to see the subtitles I couldn’t see the actors. I couldn’t even see the titles with my peripheral vision to determine when they changed. The net effect was that I “saw” less of the play than I could have.

    I understand why the subtitles were placed that close (given the movement of the house), but wish a better solution had been developed.

  11. Olga IvakhnenkoMarch 6, 2016 at 10:43 am

    It was a big mistake to book the tickets for Dodin’s “Three Sisters” in row L of the mezzanine. Actor’s facial mobility was indiscernible from my seat and I wasn’t able to hear the actors at times. The English surtitles were a rather broad-brush interpretation of Chekhov’s lines, which didn’t help me much as a native Russian speaker. However, I would like to point out Oleg Ryazantsev (Baron Tuzenbach) who with his gentle, idealistic stance and love to Irina had a fat chance to survive the doom-laden routine. The rest of the cast was good, but, again, Cutler Majestic is too big a house for this production. The bill of the play lacks spelling consistency of actor’s names – just compare the “Cast” and ” About the artists” rubrics.

  12. I too was disappointed by the play. All that anguish seemed hollow. The class distance between the sisters and those surrounding them, which is central to the play, could not be felt. As Stanislavsky would say “I do not believe it”. I put all the blame on the director, the acting was fine. While perhaps feeling the issues better than most American directors might, the director did not have the depth that this play deserved. The lighting was also terrible and did absolutely nothing to help set the stage. For example, during the early “brunch” scenes, the lighting was that of a late afternoon. Having been in Maly Theater productions in St. Petersburg, I truly expected better.

  13. As a preamble I’ll tell you I read the play and along the years I saw other productions of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. I was thrilled when I found out about this performance hoping for a new take on the subject. Helas, I found this production dry as it misses the chance of showing something different of the doomsday so often found in Chekhov’s characters. The four women characters have flat personalities, and Natasha’s persona is completely overlooked. This production is a photographic reproduction of the written word. Pity. At the intermission I saw entire rows abandoned, groups of friends decimated by en mass defection. One more comment for the ones in orchestra seats , the translation board was too high and I had to stretch quite a bit to read it, not easy for a 3 hour commitment. Overall , a dissapointment.

  14. I saw it with my husband, and we both liked it a lot. I kept thinking about the fact that the play was written in 1900, and Chekhov died of TB in 1904, so he very well may have been pretty sick as he wrote “Three Sisters”–and I feel that this is reflected in the philosophical discussions in the play. (I have not seen any other production of this particular play before.)

    My biggest complaint would probably be about the translation. Or rather I have heard complaints that some of it was too literal from my bilingual acquaintances who have seen this production. That said, I’m sure that every translation leaves something to be desired because impossible to translate without some compromise.

  15. I thought the first half was a little stuffy, belabored, even cold. But the second half was pure fire. There was a logic to the contrast.

    One of the very best Chekhov I have seen. I don’t speak Russian, but I was moved deeply. A great production.

  16. Enjoyed the show, though the sound in the mezzanine was poor. It was quite difficult to make out the Russian speech and affected the enjoyment of the show. We mentioned this to two different ushers, but no correction was made. The surtitles, however, were well-done.

    There was a fair amount of noise coming in from the street (motorcycles, police sirens, etc.) which was distracting. We may think twice before coming back to this hall.

  17. David and I left the production feeling a sense of honor that we had been able to be there. I have always loved Chekhov, I studied Russian poets and authors during my master’s program, I lived with two wonderful ladies from the Ukraine while I was living in Turkey as a teenager (my father was in the US Military and had his family with him) I have visited Moscow and (then) Leningrad. The opportunity to spend an afternoon with Chekhov was a dream come true for me. I found myself, in addition to being entranced and astonished by the splendid performers, so grateful to be surrounded by the work of Chekhov. (I also loved that I was surrounded by two major groups: (1) students and (2) families and friends from Russia and the Ukraine.) We had an afternoon we will never forget. Thank you.

  18. Yesterday’s performance is still holding me captive. I was stunned, I even cried at the end. The actors and their exceptional art stood out, and I am saying that having sat in the second row and been able to see every facial expression, every tear and every change in face color, being able to appreciate all the nuances and delicate details of these performances. If you love good actor’s theater – this was a performance for you. Besides the obvious stars, the whole cast was excellent, everyone in it shined without overshadowing anyone (the benefits of a repertory theater?). And of course, all that was possible because of the exceptional work of the director. Only a true master can make a complex human ensemble play in such harmony and deliver his ideas in such precise and poignant way.

    By the way, I am Russian, I’ve known this play since I can remember myself, and I’ve seen it on stage before, but I have never up until yesterday understood or comprehended it fully. L. Dodin’s treatment deviates from the traditional, but it is perfectly logical and absolutely convincing. Bravo, Arts Emerson, please continue bringing Russian theater to Boston.

  19. Wonderful production of a very complex Checkov’s play. Loved being able to see true Russian theater at it best.
    But sitting in the left mezzanine- we could hardly hear.
    Several possible reasons, but there were many who felt the same.
    Perhaps some sound amplifier was needed .
    Very frustrating indeed .
    On the other note – arrived late and was so grateful to find my friend was allowed to go in and sit in our sits , though I had the tickets .
    Thank you .

  20. Absolutely LOVED it!!! Some amazing acting, Not a moment lost, the entire play just flew by, every character, just right. I read Chehov as a kid, and the crew just nailed the very essence, this “unbearable lightness of being”, at the end of the show, I was certainly more on the lightness feeling of it, then unbearable . I wanted to come back and see it again, pretty awesome!!!

  21. criticnotontheaisleMarch 7, 2016 at 11:09 am

    Very good performance by all. However, not clear why there was a need for editing and rearranging of Ferapont’s lines from Act 1 to Act 4.You cannot follow the pancake lines with the “rope across Moscow” despite his memory issues. The minor roles were also blocked in a manner they would have got lost if not for the text on the screen.

  22. Bob StuartMarch 7, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    I am surprised that you would put on a play which is so dependent on dialogue in such a large theatre.
    It makes understanding and relating to the play very difficult.

  23. John MinerMarch 7, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I felt the actors faced the audience too frequently, rather than one another. The set was cold-gray, like Soviet bloc architecture. I missed the nuanced acting and scenery of an earlier production of Three Sisters, which I saw at either the ART or Stratford (Ontario) many years ago. The current performance failed to make me really feel for the desperation of the characters.

  24. Claire ChisholmMarch 13, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I loved that this was in Russian. It gave more meaning to the play


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