This is really more about me.
I went with friends to see Anton Checkov's The Three Sisters at the Vortex Theatre this evening.
The set and costumes were good. The blocking was good, the directing and acting quite good. The many characters were well delineated. I did not have that conscious awareness that I was watching actors performing that one experiences when the acting is not so good. In other words, I think it was a top notch production.
And I left at intermission.
That is not a judgment on the production.
A primary criterion in my response to plays and movies is whether I care about the characters and what happens to them. Love them, hate them, be amused by them, feel compassion, feel anger... no matter; do I care? Do I want to see what happens?
And tonight I did not. About two-thirds of the way through the first act I was ready to go home but I waited until intermission after the second act. In a telling parallel, I also left years ago during the intermission of Waiting for Godot at The Berkeley Rep. Excellent production then as well but (1) in that case I had read the play when studying 20th century French drama in college and (2) I had more than enough. I knew nothing would happen in the second half. In the instance of tonight's play, I did not care what happens in the second half.
As I said, this is really more about me and what engages me or does not. Give me Greek tragedy or Shakespeare, thanks.
I believe it is also a testament to Checkov's success in expressing the claustrophobic frustration of people trapped in unfulfilling lives. The characters are bored, struggling, and making no progress toward a happier life. I felt incredibly claustrophobic. Physically there was a set with many characters crowded into it and I was not sitting in the front row where I usually sit and can stretch my legs. But it is the emotional claustrophobia of the characters in their situation the connected solidly. They were not getting out of their situation. I had a choice, and I exercised it.
So this is being written while the third and fourth acts are being performed. I congratulate the actors, the director, and the Vortex for doing a good job. And I want to share some of the director's notes.
Denise Schultz writes:
As a pompous undergraduate student in the late 1960's, I hated Anton Checkov's plays. When asked to read these scripts, I groaned... they were boring, pretentious and were irreverent [irrelevant?] to the world I existed in.She goes on to describe a transformative experience of The Three Sisters and concludes:
I became and still am a lover of Checkov's musical language, breathing characters, and his dynamic ability to tell a remarkable story. Either Checkov or I grew up. I am assuming it was me.Though I prefer the slower pacing of European cinema to the rushed pace of Hollywood, I guess I have not yet matured with respect to Checkov.
I am much happier at home right now and, blessedly, much happier with my life than the poor folks in the play.
Sorry, Mimi, I know you loves you some Checkov.
For Checkov lovers in New Mexico, there is a good production at the Vortex through May 30.