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Three Sisters 

When: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through May 22 2011
Price: $14.50 - $73
Playwright Sarah Ruhl may be known for odd, jagged storylines and elliptical language. But given the chance to adapt a well-known canonical play by Anton Chekhov, she made surprisingly few adulterations. Using a translation by Elise Thoron as her point of departure, Ruhl kept the plot of Chekhov's Three Sisters largely intact, though she endeavored to make the language more colloquial and less mannered. She injected enough humor into the first act to render it a lighthearted comedy, which makes the tragedy of the second half seem all the more serious and grave. And she added a few winking bits to illuminate character differences. The production, under the direction of Les Waters, manages to be smart without being glib, save for some too-literal costume choices by Ilona Somogyi, who dressed the three sisters in monochrome. Natalia Payne is superb as the vampy, deadpan Masha. Annie Smart's enormously detailed set speaks volumes. Through May 22 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). $17-$73. 510-647-2949 or BerkeleyRep.org.
— Rachel Swan

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