Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Andreï ou le frère des Trois Soeurs

photo by Théo Gravereaux
Three Sisters Redux
by Aleksandra Koplik

Anyone who is familiar with Chekhov’s work would agree that doing a spin-off of the Three Sisters is no easy task. Actually, it’s bloody impossible without ruffling a few feathers. This isn’t the “Joey” of “Friends”, for crying out loud.

The work’s creators Justin Laramée and Olivier Aubin set up camp in Espace Libre. The black box concept automatically warns you that this play steps outside the limits of traditional theatre. The stage is lit with a gigantic chandelier made of spotlights (to represent the wealth of the bourgeoisie). We see a three legged sofa (the fourth leg is symbolically held up by a stack of books), an old television, a cassette player/recorder and a line of tables in the very back containing all the props used by the actors during the 90-minute show. The actors have enough space to allow them the possibility to shift freely and exaggerate their movements.

This play takes Andreï’s (played by Aubin) perspective. He is the Prozorov outsider. He represents knowledge that no one seeks, appreciates or wants to learn anymore. He is degrading, just like Russia before the revolution. The three sisters are only heard via the cassette player. Like ghosts, they shadow over our main character. It is strange that Laramée and Aubin chose specifically this character to tell the story. He is in no way the hero. He is the weakest link, the failure in the family.  Olivier Aubin portrays those aspects of his character beautifully.

Natasha (Émilie Gilbert), Andreï’s wife, is the most active character on stage. She is supposed to be proactive in every way that her husband is not and yet she doesn’t do anything but yell at him and have an affair. Though she is stamped by Chekhov as the unfaithful woman, she is the reason Andrei wakes up every morning and this could have been played up substantially.

Perhaps the real antagonist and most interesting character in the play is Chebutykin (Denis Gravereaux), a retired army doctor and Andreï’s only friend. He’s an alcoholic and a truly unhappy man that carries a bottle of vodka (Moskovskaya, thank goodness!) with him in almost every scene. He gives this show lightness, he makes the audience laugh as he breezes through his social commentary.

In the Three Sisters, there is a fire that devastates the small town in which the Prozorovs live. The central point in this play is when Andrei sets fire to the town (the idea of the creators). So we are prompted to think of him not only as the feeble younger brother, but as a destructive and unstable being who can no longer find a place in society.

Although I could imagine Chekhov rolling over in his grave by the end, I must admit it was my favourite part. No spoilers! This play is more of a comedy than a tragicomedy, the content thought out and the set design brilliant. If you’re looking to try something new, try this, but before you do I would definitely recommend looking up the original in order to avoid confusion and truly be able to assess the work.

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