The Jeff Goldberg Studio in Bandra, is a renowned Method Acting Institute and this last weekend their Advanced Students put up an excellent production of Anton Chekhov’s play, ‘Three Sisters’. This play written in 1900, and set amidst the background of the common man’s revolt against Tsarist Russia, has been adapted to an Indian milieu by the director of this play, Ashok Pandey. Considering the political climate in our country today, this adaptation seems completely relevant.
The story revolves around the lives of three sisters, who live in a small town somewhere in the mountains. Olga (Feroza Singh), the eldest sister is a school teacher and a mother figure to the rest of the family, as their parents have passed away. Masha (Sharvi Bhujbal), the middle sister is enmeshed in a loveless marriage, while Irina (Sanya Sagar), the youngest sister is the most feisty and constantly dreams of moving to the big city…Mumbai in this case. The city also represents their collective unfulfilled desires, rather than a place they never really get to. It is interesting that Ashok Pandey has chosen to retain the names of the three sisters from the original play, while he has given their only brother Kabir, an Indian name, and the rest of the cast also have Indian names.
Despite the civil war and riots raging outside, the play opens on a joyous note, with everyone gathered to celebrate Irina’s birthday. Lt. Col. Vikram (Sidhant Kalra) has recently been transferred to their town, and is a welcome guest at this party that includes Haider (Apoorv Kumar), who is in love with Irina, and Sameer who also loves her. Other guests that join the party are Sarfraz, Masha’s husband, Dr. Sushil, their tenant and Kabir(Aditya Jain), their spoilt younger brother and later Natasha( Jennifer Piccinato), Kabir’s girlfriend, also joins the revelry. With so many actors on stage at one time, the director ingeniously created more space for the stage by creating it lengthwise at this intimate space! The joy of seeing a play at this venue is, that it feels like seeing a play in your own living room!
Like in most Russian literature, Love and War, seem to be the central theme here. Masha has an illicit affair with Vikram, the docile Kabir marries Natasha who goes from being a simple girl to becoming a tyrant mistress of the house. And just when Irina agrees to marry her ardent lover Haider, her wish remains a dream as fate has other plans for her. There appear to be two fires raging, one outside in the streets where the riots are on, and one within the confines of the house amongst its inhabitants! All the actors played their roles convincingly, but the standout performances were undoubtedly those of Sanya Sagar’s as Irina and Jennifer as Natasha. Jeff Goldberg Studio really needs to be congratulated for the number of talented actors they are churning out!