Editor’s note: A Daily staffer is affiliated with the “Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow” production, but they were not involved in the creation, production or publication of this piece.
“Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow” opened at the Arthur Miller Theatre on Sept. 29. “Moscow,” a modern, hilarious and shocking take on “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov, was written by playwright Halley Feiffer and directed at Michigan by guest director Ryan Dobrin. Dobrin is a Queer and biracial director from New York and has worked on well-known projects such as “Diana: The Musical” and “Merrily We Roll Along,” among others. Dobrin’s interpretation of “Moscow” was an absolute rollercoaster of emotion. Its staging had the audience gasping for air from laughter and then on the brink of tears in a matter of seconds. The set, costumes, intensive character work and quick pace of the show made the quippy text come alive and struck the audience right in their faces, leaving them with no choice but to come to terms with what “Moscow” means to them. The cast and crew perfectly captured nostalgia: what it means to love, to forget and to settle.
The show is centered around three sisters: Olga (the eldest), played by Music, Theatre & Dance senior Miles Elliot, Masha (the middle child), played by Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Myles Mathews and Irina (the youngest), played by Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore A. Hadley Gorsline. The three sisters have lived alone with their brother in the Russian countryside since the death of their parents, and long for the time they lived in Moscow, for the time that they felt happiness — or what they thought happiness was. Their boredom abounds in the countryside, and they seek any kind of entertainment to interrupt their languor and depression. Throughout the show, soldiers from the nearby brigade come into the house, some of them causing romantic trysts and fights between the sisters. As the show progresses and grows darker and deeper, the laughter from the audience becomes less constant and more uncomfortable. There was something so beautiful about not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
The show began with a very simple but beautiful set designed by Jess Fialko, clinical assistant professor of theatre & drama at the University of Michigan. The stage had a few hanging lights, a chaise and a few tables and chairs. It was divided so that the majority was inside the house, while the remaining portion resembled a screened-in porch. The screen added an interesting physical level to the house and to its inhabitants, showing us exactly who could leave and who couldn’t. As time passed, the set grew simpler and simpler while the story became more and more complex. By the end of the show, the set was practically barren, and the screen opened up to reveal a fire exit sign, breaking open the world these larger-than-life characters had created for themselves. The simplification and removal of the set pieces let the audience pay more attention to the relationships between the characters on stage.
In addition to the set, the costume design (and the sequence of the costumes themselves throughout the show) enhanced the already brilliant storytelling. Designed by Music, Theatre & Dance junior and Daily Staffer Matthew Eggers, the costumes told the story arc almost better than the words did. Specifically, the three sisters have a sister-in-law, Natasha, played by Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Tatiana Cloobeck. Natasha slowly gains more and more power within the house over the course of the play. Eggers illustrated this perfectly through their costume design by beginning the show with Natasha dressed modestly (though the sisters continuously call her a whore because of her low-class background), and ending the show with Natasha in an incredible hot pink feather dress and black heeled boots. Her desperation to belong and to be a part of the family is revealed in her costume progression.
“Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow” was a brave, hilarious and shocking piece. The cast and crew of the show had audiences reexamining their own contentment. “Moscow” explored loneliness, family dynamics, belonging and nostalgia in a new way with old text.
“Moscow” closed on Oct. 9 at the Arthur Miller Theatre.
Daily Arts Writer Constance Meade can be reached at email@example.com.