A recurring theme in Three Sisters is time; there are constant references to clocks such as Act One Kulygin says, “You’re clock is seven minutes fast. ” To highlight this theme I would make sure the actors gave lines with reference to time the significance they deserve as well as using lighting to show the passing of the seasons. The play starts in Spring so I would use bright lighting from the direction of the window, down stage right, as well as general overhead lighting to give the stage a spring-like atmosphere.
In the second act I would have dim lights from the direction of the DSR window to indicate that it was evening and also have Natasha carrying a candle. In Act Three, with the fire, I would have dim lights except for a blazing red light DSL from the doorway, created using a red gel to represent the fire. From the beginning of the scene I would slowly make the lights brighter and add more orange/red light using a gel to show it was early morning. In the last scene I would use bright lights to show it was midday in the garden.
I see Anfisa as the physical manifestation of time gone by so I think it would be vital to get an actor who can do this part justice. I would want the whole play to be acted naturalistically so Anfisa would need to show her fear of being turned out of the household because she is too old to be of use, as well as her physical age which would be shown by often sitting down, walking very slowly with a slight shuffle, as well as having a slightly stooped back. The futility of life is another theme.
It is shown throughout the play by the characters disillusion with life through lines such as when Masha says, “All our hopes have been foundered” in Act Four. Through the play I would have Irina becoming more and more mournful and jaded; very different from the youthful and optimistic young woman at the beginning of the play. To do this I would ask the actor to be very upbeat and playful at the start, laughing and smiling a lot, but reaching a climax of depression in her last speech after the death of Tusenbach.
I would ask her to show her loss of naievity and almost develop a cynical and slightly cold view of things. Her speech in Act Four is another brilliant example of her transition from young innocent girl to disenchanted young woman, so I would make sure this scene was acted very carefully because as well as showing her now world-wearied character, it also is an excellent example of life not living up to people’s expectations and the loneliness that the characters feel, ultimately as a result of their refusal to listen to each other.
The sisters’ romantisised view of Moscow, seen most clearly in Act One in the conversation between Vershinin and the sisters, is brutally brought back down to reality by Vershinin. This idea, that things aren’t quite what they seem, is one I would like to experiment with so I would want the walls to be made out of some sort of material that moved when touched but otherwise looked normal. I would like the set to relatively bare, only having chairs, a table and a grandfather clock behind the alcove/collonades and a couple of chairs in front but i would have broken clocks of various sizes scattered across the stage.
I would have all the furniture in plain, understated wood unlike what you would expect to be in the sisters’ household. I think this would illustrate the loneliness of the characters. Another way I would show this is by occasionally having characters mouth lines to show how people do not listen. I also think it is important to keep in Masha’s whistling in Act One and as Olga talked I would have it getting louder to try block her out reaching a crescendo on Olga’s acussationary line, ” I should have loved my husband.
The sisters would wear the colours stated in the stage diresctions (Olga in dark blue, Masha in black and Irina in white. ) I would have them in long, very basic dresses, typical of the time, so as not to distract attention from the plot or acting. Very near the beginning of the play the clock strikes twelve followed by the line, “The clock kept striking then, too. ” So to end the play and enhance the idea that life goes on regardless of people and their shattered hopes and dreams I would have the clock striking twelve times and then a dead black as the grandfather clock falls to the floor.