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'The Sisters'

Aiming for an edgy blend of the classic and the contemporary à la Julie Taymor, The Sisters—playwright-screenwriter Richard Alfieri's inexplicable haircut of Three Sisters, first produced at the Pasadena Playhouse—is a clumsy graft of Chekhovian high dudgeon and harsh, Albee-esque psychological realism that probably worked better onstage. Alfieri transforms Chekhov's bored Muscovite bourgies into a repressed, Southern-gothic clan with a Lifetime-style Dark Secret, then turns them loose to let the froth fly in a mythical Upper Manhattan university faculty lounge. The director, TV and stage vet Arthur Allan Seidelman, keeps things moving briskly enough (the most you can hope for with a filmed play), and the game cast members—ranging from an over-enunciating, unconvincing Maria Bello to the surprisingly subtle Tony Goldwyn—do what they can with the bombastic dialogue. Chekhov's theme of the clash of nostalgic expectations with adult realities remains intact, but Alfieri's flip-flopped dynamic—urban transplants longing for a faded rural idyll—is so undercooked as to strip the story of social or personal significance. What's left is a series of fraught confrontations that are more shrill than insightful or wrenching.

 
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