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Chekov play with LGBT twist for Ranchi

Three Sisters parades ‘accidental’ character

By Achintya Ganguly in Ranchi
  • Published 16.02.19, 4:40 PM
  • Updated 16.02.19, 4:40 PM
  • 2 mins read
Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters being staged at Aryabhatta Auditorium in Morabadi, Ranchi, on Thursday. Picture by Manob Chowdhary

Had he been around, a surprise — pleasant or otherwise — would have greeted Russian playwright Anton Chekhov on Thursday.

The English version of Three Sisters, Chekhov’s outstanding play revolving around the humdrum life of sisters Olga, Masha and Irina in a small garrison town, had an unusual twist — that of upholding the LGBT cause.

In the original play, middle sister Masha, despite being married to schoolteacher Kulygin, develops a relationship with Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin. In the one presented by One World Theatre of Kathmandu, Nepal, at the international drama festival at Ranchi University’s Aryabhatta Auditorium, Vershinin is instead a woman, Vershinina. And, Masha no less declares her undying love for “Vershinina” in front of her sisters with the very famous line, “I love, love, love that woman!”

Director Rose Schwietz, who also played Vershinina in the contemporary version of the Chekov play, said it all happened accidentally.

“The male actor playing the army officer had to drop out when we were preparing last year and I had to step in,” Schwietz said, explaining why the character had to undergo a gender change.

The theatre group continued the trend in their next production, as it was not a bad idea. “The LGBT cause is important and we have tried to address the issue in our play,” the director said.

Based in New York City, Schwietz was a musician before she took up an acting course at Saratoga International Theater Institute (SITI). She later taught acting in a school in Kathmandu for four years before joining One World Theatre as actor-director. She conducts workshops in the US, Nepal and India.

“I was fascinated by Three Sisters when I first read it during my acting course at SITI. The play was written in 1900 and staged at Moscow Art Theatre a year later. It is an extraordinary portrayal of ordinary life,” Schwietz said.

The four-act play, spanning over 2.15 hours, was engrossing. The story is centred around matriarch elder sister Olga (Luniva Tuladhar), a somewhat frustrated Masha (Akansha Karki), youngest sister Irina (Samayika Goutam) who dreams of going to Moscow one day and find true love and their only brother Andrei (Vijay Tamrakar) who gets married to Natasha (Pooja Lama). The family’s mundane life gets exciting when soldiers visit them.

All the characters are convincingly portrayed, but army doctor Chebutykin (Rajkumar Pudasaini) who once had a soft corner for the girls’ mother and now drinks too much deserves special mention. Schwietz distributed the stage into three zones and made optimum use of each.

“The play is relevant even today. Such a sibling saga can be true anywhere, anytime,” said Dr Sunita Katyayan, a paediatrician and among the 150-strong audience.