By Preman Koshar || Arts & Entertainment Editor
Two weekends ago, I had the good fortune to have the opportunity to see the play Three Sisters and A Wolf in Philadelphia. A limited number of tickets were provided for free by the Theatre Department. The play was written and directed by Rachel Anderson-Rabern, assistant professor of theatre at F&M, and was put on by her and Landon Rabern’s theater company, Wee Keep Company, at the Philly Fringe Festival this year.
The play loosely focuses on the plot of Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters, with several major modifications and additions. Chekov’s classic tale of three upper middle class sisters: Olga, played by Holly Andrew, an F&M alumna; Masha, played by Charlotte Brooks, an F&M alumna; and Irina, played by Amanda Schumacher, a graduate of the University of New Haven, which revolved around their struggle to move forward in their lives and find happiness was familiar, as it had been performed at F&M last year, with the same director at the helm.
Olga is the more responsible, older sister, who attempts to watch over the younger ones, while Masha is more rambunctious, outgoing, and sensual. Irina is generally child-like, shy, and sweet.
Their story is carefully interwoven with the lives of three young acting students preparing to be in a play, recitations of letters written by Chekov himself while he was writing Three Sisters, and the extinction of wolves in Lancaster County. It was an eclectic bunch of circumstances, to be sure. The representation of the wolves’ plight was recounted with stories and writings from that period, the early 20th century, (which just so happens to coincide with the period that Chekov was writing Three Sisters) and majestic dances performed by a lupine Pamela Vail. The play was also occasionally “interrupted” by Vanessa Hart, the Stage Manager and Assistant Director, and Charlie Wynn, the House Manager and Assistant Director, who would clear the set while interacting with Pamela Vail to comedic effect. Hart and Wynn are both seniors at F&M.
The play is a collage of different scenes and times, but each seemed to resonate and connect with each other in an unusual, almost casual way that confused me at first, but ended up providing a unique and fluid flow to the play. The interludes with Pamela Vail’s wolf dances were surprisingly entertaining, and Hart and Wynn served to ground the play more firmly in reality while providing comic relief.
Three Sisters and A Wolf, while still true to the original play’s sad, unproductive ending, is much less depressing as a whole. This is largely due to the skillfully inserted scenes where the sisters act much as real sisters would: arguing over silly things, and telling each other funny stories. The humor in these scenes is intelligent and well planned, and really demonstrates the playwright’s prowess. It is what saves the play from being simply a rehash of Three Sisters and makes it its own distinct story with its own distinct voice.
Sophomore Preman Koshar is the Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.