Chekhov felt of the first production of his Three Sisters play that Stanislavski's direction had run roughshod over his script and squelched the subtleties of his characters and thus the play. It was received with mixed results but became a classic in the long view.
There’s no doubting what is going on in Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow now playing at MCC Theater; that is indeed what is happening. A whole lot of squelching is going on all over the place. There are absolutely no subtle moments here (except wonderful acting ones by Rebecca Henderson, Matthew Jeffers, and Steven Boyer). Everyone tells what they want, either of their own accords upon entering, or only slightly coerced by another character. Backstories are revealed and laid bare (“Irina’s your daughter?”). Everyone is depressed, of course, telling us over and over again, after all, it is spoofing Chekhov. (“This is the worst night of my life.” Every night is the worst night of your life.” “Touche.”).
Moscow... is a frolic over, through and around Chekhov’s Three Sisters play, with tongue in cheek, a wink to the audience, a squeeze of the whoopie cushion and a fast and furious roll in the hay that has the characters coming back up for air with bodies deeply pierced and bloodied from finding packs of needles in that haystack that draws their soul blood. There is an intensity of purpose with the full knowledge that it will only lead to insanity. There is a lack of purpose as everything is all hopeless anyway. All happening simultaneously within each character.
Quickly, three sisters (Olga, Masha, and Irina) and their brother (Andraei), all currently in their 20’s, were raised in Moscow’s high society, but, after their mother died several years ago, moved to a country town where the only thing that was there was a military base that their father commanded. He’s now dead. They each feel that there is no future for any of them and they pine for what their lives could be if they had only stayed in Moscow. Here they remain, bored and lonely inside. All are in despair, but still stay hopeful, for no reason they can decipher. Marriage is hell. No marriage is hell.
The set is wonderfully designed and utilized with a raised bare wood platform overhung by a sharply peaked Russian country house roof (that lighting cleverly works around making sure everyone is highlighted) and on two sides stadium seats are set up for the audience to see the action. At one end is a brightly lit and colorful dreamy travel poster picture of the roofs of Moscow that the three sisters pine for throughout the play. (Finally, in this production, after over a hundred years of pining in countless productions of Three Sisters, the sisters end the play by turning out the travel poster lights and make the trip to Moscow.)
A very good production, wonderfully written, acted, directed and teched, worth seeing whether you’re a Chekhov fan or not.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)
"Halley Feiffer’s Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow, which opened on Thursday at the Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space in Hell’s Kitchen, states up front that it is an adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. And yet that’s a dodge. This amusing stunt of a play, commissioned by the Williamstown Theater Festival and directed by Trip Cullman, isn’t so much adapted as lifted intact, then sliced, colorized and confettied. It’s Chekhov’s skeleton given a Mean Girls makeover."
Jesse Green for New York Times
"Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow opened Thursday at the MCC Theater, and never have the three Russian sisters been so funny funny funny in wanting to return to their hometown."
Robert Hofler for The Wrap
"If you've ever watched a production of Chekhov's Three Sisters and thought, "What this play really needs is for one of the characters to sit on a whoopie cushion," then do I have the show for you."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
"There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of Three Sisters like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater's new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. And did we mention fun?"
Marilyn Stasio for Variety