There’s an episode of “Family Guy” in which Peter Griffin, sitting through a production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya,” becomes so bored that he screams at the actors, “What the hell is this? For crying out loud! Somebody throw a pie!”
Alas, you might feel the same frustration watching Austin Pendleton’s miscast, flavorless and hopelessly uneven production of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters.”
The classic drama observes Olga (Jessica Hecht), Irina (Juliet Ryance) and Masha (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who desperately long to escape the provincial town where their late father was a military general and return to their hometown of Moscow. That dream is crushed by a dull marriage, bad jobs, their brother’s (Josh Hamilton) gambling debts and his mean-spirited, power-hungry wife (Marin Ireland).
Pendleton, who also staged “Uncle Vanya” at Classic Stage two years ago, creates an inviting environmental setting that is dominated by a wooden plank floor, fogged mirrors and a huge dining room table. Instead of having a single intermission in the middle of the play, Pendleton adds two intermissions in odd spots, which creates a sense of disunity.
The cast comes off as too American in spite of the period setting. The sisters might just as well be longing to go to Hollywood instead of Moscow. There also is no consistency to the performances; everyone seems to be appearing in their own separate production.
Gyllenhaal is particularly awful and graceless. On the other hand, Rylance is too poised and mature to play the youngest sister, Irina. Ireland works too hard as the coarse and villainous Natasha. Poor Hecht, a superb actress, gets lost in the mess.
Peter Sarsgaard, as an army official having an affair with Masha, sports a ridiculous beard and comes off as simply pompous. Paul Lazar horrifically overplays the role of Masha’s husband as a cross-eyed, spastic idiot. Luckily, Hamilton delivers a fine, understated performance as the family weakling whose wife walks all over him.
“Three Sisters” is at Classic Stage through March 6.
136 E. 13th St., 212-352-3101, classicstage.org