Reviewed by Robert Viagas
TaRaRaBOOM: A Three Sisters Mishmash
Adapted from Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, with original songs, movement, and text adaptation by Rebecca Strimaitis, Billy Calder, Danny Goodman, Laura Kruegel, and members of the Crash company.
CRASH Theatre Company’s reimagining of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, retitled TaRaRaBOOM: A Three SistersMishmash, actually presents the original characters, conflicts and key speeches of the Russian classic more or less intact. What CRASH has added is various sorts of absurdist fun, including several songs, a dance or two, and impressionistic staging tricks that make this an innovative meme-ification of the modern classic.
The play still tells the story of the Prozorov sisters, trapped in their family’s remote country estate, longing for the elusive happiness represented by the chimera of their stylish urban existence in long-lost Moscow. But TaRaRaBOOM adds energy and dark humor to Chekhov’s tragicomedy, as it gradually becomes clear that none of the sisters—or the collection of people who orbit around them—is likely to ever find the happiness that they crave in life.
The best performances are the ones that capture the distinctive voices of Chekhov’s characters, notably Kristen Alyson Browne as the youngest sister Irina who feels like her life is over before it’s really begun; Matthew Christian as the cuckolded Kulygin; Justin Packard as the soldier Vershinin whose stoicism begins to crack; and Elijah Guo as the lovesick and doomed Baron.
The whole company alternates playing the role of Natasha, the commoner who marries the Sisters’ brother Andrei and gradually comes to dominate the household—possibly making the point that there is a little Natasha in all of them.
The production would benefit from some fine-tuning. When the talismanic word “Moscow” is uttered, everyone shouts “Moscow!” in unison. It’s funny at first but the gag is done maybe three times too often. The show’s new title comes from the refrain of the 19thcentury vaudeville song “Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay,” sung repeatedly by the semi-senile character Chebutykin in the original script. Considering that it is used as the title for this version, it should have been offered more prominently.
The adaptation is credited to four company founders, three of whom appear in the cast, working from an uncredited translation. Despite the liberties taken and the helium injected into the play, TaRaRaBOOMstill manages to arrive at Chekhov’s heartbreaking ending.
TaRaRaBOOMis being presented by CRASH Theatre Company at Access Theater, 380 Broadway, Manhattan. Performances continue through October 7. CRASH is described as an emerging collective formed by Calder, Strimaitis, Kruegel and Goodman, all graduates of The American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater MFA Acting Program at Harvard University.