(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)
Theater practitioners and scholars delight in dredging up the vestiges of times gone by, rehashing the classics and keeping them alive through incessant repetition.
But it can be taboo to question why in the world anyone needs another production of Chekhov.
“Three Zisters” by Lola Pierson, playing through Feb. 14 at Salvage Vanguard Theater, asks that very question by turning Chekhov’s original into a mash up of every imaginable taboo (from necrophilia to self-flagellation) set in stark contrast to the polite society of 19th-century Russia.
And the sisters are zombies. And it’s seriously amazing whether you like Chekhov or not.
The show is a beautifully holistic piece of theater. director Yury Urnov draws on all the available production elements to create an ominous world for the play that delights and startles at every turn.
Designer Iä Enstera brings us another amazing (and dynamic) set and Natalie George’s lighting gives it additional life.
Robert Fisher’s sound design casts the creepy overtones that plunge us into the haunted house aesthetic, and Jessica Gilzow’s costumes offer just the right amount of weird and threatening (surgical masks and latex gloves are inherently sinister on stage).
The show starts on a mischievous note when Robert Matney (Andrei) appears on stage to tell us the back story – using a series of vegetables, kitchen utensils and nesting matryoshka dolls to illustrate the tale of Checkhov’s melancholy characters.
It’s a whirlwind of information, but that doesn’t matter much since this isn’t (in any way) a standard re-telling of Chekov’s play. Especially if you know enough about the original to dislike it, you’ll love this show, as it seems to be both an homage and a send up of the canonical work.
Heather Hanna (Olga), Jenny Larson (Irina), and Caroline Reck (Masha) are fabulously creepy as the bedraggled trio, brought to life yet again to be hauled through the motions of Chekhov’s tragedy.
Jay Byrd (Tusenbach), Zac Crofford (Vershenin), and Noel Gaulin (Soleny) round out the cast and put up with an amazing amount of abuse in this raunchy revision.
The short 65-minute show keeps you on the edge of your seat, though if you’re sitting in the front row, you might want to watch your toes as they’re just on the edge of the splatter zone.
It may be Chekhov (sort of), but it’s Chekhov with zombies, so of course there’s going to be blood. And it’s great.
“Three Zisters” continues through Feb. 14 at Salvage Vanguard Theater. www.salvagevanguard.org