Two opposing opinions about Chekov’s Three Sisters, directed by Andrei Serban

2011.02.01. 11:16


You can never tell what Three sisters by Chekhov means to you until you have put it on stage - there has been a massive row of re-redirections of the play lately in Hungarian theatres and they are always compared with the archetype, i.e. the legendary version created by Tamas Ascher and the Katona Jozsef Theatre, Budapest in 1985.

Andrei Serban, the Romanian stage director living in the US is very good at Chekhov. Two years ago his Uncle Vanya in the Hungarian Theatre of Cluj (Romania) was fascinating and now in the National Theatre of Budapest he shows his renowned art to tell most of his and the play's thoughts by the space, movements, layers, distances, narrowing-widening optics, motions, rhythm, lights and shadows, big canvases and sounds. Illusions and lies: this is what needs re-determinations in these days, and the way Serban does it seems to be a complete avoidance of the tragic-cathartic way of telling the story of the never-happening-journey to Moscow.

Two leading critics are on opposing views, Tamas Koltai is saying that it is now the most progressive approach ever, that humour, the absence of self-pity, emphatic pieces of music and the choreography compose the structure, which can be seen at its best in creating a structure of passive voice. By dramaturgical help, the classical translation of Dezso Kosztolanyi is slightly transformed into this grammatical use of verbs, while still insisting on the original text. The production is the brilliance of a director, whose literal and theatrical mother-tongue is that of Ionesco's. Another marked view of Judit Csaki sees it as "too much". There is an abundance of ideas, for example the fact that communication is dominated by body-language rather than verbal means, that Vershinin is operetta-like and the space is opening for him, that Kulygin is homoerotic, while Olga is entertaining, Robert Menczel's scenery, the amount of stylized actions, good and worse punch lines, etc. All these end up in being too much to decipher, while the three sisters fade out in Act IV and the excellent actors obediently do what they are ordered to: to follow instructions.

Katalin Budai

Hungarian Theatre Critics Association