To my recollection, there was very little to dance about in the Prozorov household of regret, random reflections and unfounded hopes. So by the time the cast of “Sisters 3.0”—the Big Picture Group’s avant-garde take on Chekhov’s timeless “Three Sisters”—is breaking out into a crisply choreographed dance number to Bobby Darin’s recording of “Mack the Knife”, you know you’re deep into deconstructionist theater. Unfortunately, for all its bright ideas and technological innovations, director Roger Bechtel’s production lacks the deeply felt tenderness of its original source material, and remains little more than a slick academic exercise whose appeal at best will be limited to hardcore Chekhov fans. Bechtel’s main thesis, I think, finds a parallel between the merciless tedium that isolated Chekhov’s nineteenth-century Russians and the relentless technology that has made twenty-first-century Americans lonelier and less sociable than ever. This is an interesting if obvious idea, and one that is played out using a streamlined ninety-minute adaptation (a flat and literal translation that should have been a first draft to a more colloquial and serviceable text) and played out using television screens, microphones and video images that can be extensions of the onstage live action. The bare bones text leaves little room (not to mention fewer moments) in which the committed company of actors can shape and deepen their characters, and overall there is little rhyme or reason to the use of technology. So much so that anyone unfamiliar with the original will surely be lost by the second act. Perhaps the disorienting nature and muddled multimedia of the piece is intentional and another one of Bechtel’s contemporary reflections of Chekhov’s original in which characters fail to connect with one another and are forever alienating and interrupting. But without an emotional core, these postmodern proceedings are more distracting than they ever are deepening. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, (773) 935-6860. Thu-Sat 8pm/Sun 3pm. $12 – $15. Through July 16.