Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's reviews of Finding Neverland, Raging Skillet and At Home at the Zoo

Cristin Milioti, Tavi Gevinson, Rebecca Henderson,
and Sheaun McKinney

Photo by Daniel Rader
Halley Feiffer's Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow, a spectacularly and eccentrically bizarre yet successful play in a world premiere production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival through August 6th, is not about Moscow. The wildly imaginative playwright has adapted Chekhov's Three Sisters by going contemporary in various ways. The writer is fortunate to have a gifted set of actors and a director, Trip Cullman, whose creativity equals her own. Those familiar with the Russian classic will experience recognition since more than merely the names of the characters recall the original text. From moment one, though, this one flies off into another orbit. Most of the bits are sublime; everyone watching will have favorites, and perhaps others not in that category.

Olga (Rebecca Henderson) opens the proceedings with an expletive-laced assessment of her life and herself. She's older than her siblings and unmarried. Let's say she is not exactly optimistic. Actress Cristin Milioti plays Masha, the middle sister, one who has frenetically comic temper tantrums. Blonde Irina (Tavi Gevinson) finds that every man, so it seems, is attracted to her and wants to sleep with her. All she wants, really, is to get back to Moscow. Still, she does couple with Tuzenbach (Micah Stock) who is a baron. The three sisters are disgusted to be stuck in a Russian countryside house in 1900.

Their father died a year before and their brother Andrey (Thomas Sadoski) is on the university teaching track. He falls for or with Natasha (Jeanine Serralles), pretty much known as a whore. Eventually, Natasha and Andrey have a baby.

There are many supportive players. One, Kulygin (Ryan Spahn), teaches Latin at a high school and is married to Masha. Another, Chebutykin (Harvy Blanks), is an army physician and on the older side. Solyony (Glenn Davis) is a military captain and a man who is completely determined to partner with Irina. Then there's aged and visibly further aging Anfisa (played by Ako) who has forever worked for this Prozorov family and, by the conclusion of the production, is treated with utter contempt.

When people are completely depressed and hopeless, it makes absolute sense for them to dream of something better. They do so while expressively enacting the negative absurdities of the present. That's what Halley Feiffer (once an actor in a high school production of the Chekhov) has in mind. Utilizing the author's script as a springboard, director Cullman releases a blazing contingent of actors, led by the sisters and Natasha. The quartet of women blast this show to the heights. After intermission, Natasha has bulled her way to take over the extended family and the homestead. She is headstrong, hyper-controlling, and impossibly inflexible. The tone of Moscow ... shifts from humorously antic to seriously compelling as a shorter second act evolves.

The women cast for this production become electrically charged whenever Feiffer's script demands physical malleability. Milioti's Masha is, at times, a dervish. Jeanine Serralles, playing Natasha, has a delectably bawdy scene with Andrey (Sadoski) past the midpoint of the lengthy opening act and she is, well, uninhibited. End of understatement.

Cullman opens the performance faucets for his group yet very much manages the production so that nothing is haphazard. It seems, perhaps, that they are all over the place. Not so: discipline complements the madness. The cycles of enormous energy rise to a crescendo and then calm when necessary. The collaboration amongst the actors is exceptional while they manage to tell the story Chekhov wrote. It is not necessary to have full familiarity with the original but some knowledge of the plot could enrich.

On another level, Moscow ..., an ironic title on a few levels, is thoughtful. After all, the sisters are dreadfully unhappy. They have lost what they loved, the previous life and locale, and are frustrated that their efforts are futile ones. The girls thought their brother to be heroic and he isn't getting anywhere. Thus, Feiffer injects them with gusto and catapults them off the mark with the first beats of her script. The playwright and director, through some fervid movement and ingenious performance, move Chekhov to another realm.

For the most part Mark Wendland, designing, opens the stage. He and the director employ twenty 21st century chairs and such. The furniture is moved, at a certain juncture, by all the actors. That said, oil lamps are lit, too—remember, this is, in theory, the early 1900s in Russia. Paloma Young's costumes allow the cast members, during needed sequences, great freedom.

Everyone involved takes a risk with the WTF staging of Moscow ... The result is a smashing winner.

Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow continues on the Nikos Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts, through August 6th, 2017. For tickets, call (413) 458-3253 or visit

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