CHAUTAUQUA - Everything looks different, when seen in a different light.
Through July 17, the Chautauqua Theater Company offers you Chekhov's ''Three Sisters'' in a very different light, indeed.
Usually Chekhov's plays are seen as very delicate things. Not a lot of action takes place, which leaves the audience to experience the lives of the characters through their words and even more, through the audience's understanding of what it would feel like to be in such situations.
In this production, Director Brian Mertes and Choreographer Jesse Perez have given unexpected and - when you really think about it - realistic energies to the original words. Life doesn't proceed in linear fashion. Neither does this play.
Music is played throughout, most of it by members of the cast who strum banjos and play accordian and drums and other instruments. Characters are faced by a terrible, sad truth, and suddenly break out into dance. Maybe you only dance when you're happy, but many people dance when they have some feeling or reaction to get out, when normal words and expressions aren't enough.
The play is the story of the gradual stripping away of all the hopes and dreams of the three sisters of the title, and where they will try to go from there. At the beginning, their parents have died and they have so little money they can't afford to live in their home city of Moscow, so they have moved to a small garrison town, and found uninteresting jobs. But, they're young and they have plans to restore themselves to happiness.
As the play goes on, they grow older, and their plans don't work, and the people they depend upon prove unworthy of their faith, until they eventually learn the hard way that they must live the lives they have, whether life delivers on their dreams or not.
The company's artistic director, Vivienne Benesch, proved both a sensitive actress and a darned good dancer in the role of the oldest sister, Olga. That role is often played as less significant to the younger sisters, who have more choices in life, but this portrayal shows us what Olga wanted and how strong she has been, and what it has cost her, in making the lemonade she has made with what life has dealt her.
Laura Gragtmans and Charlotte Graham played strongly in the same manner as the two younger sisters. If Olga's plans have never seemed to have worked out, Masha's - Ms. Gragtmans' - have all worked out, and now that she has them, they're not enough nor what she thought they would be.
Irina has planned to accept less than she wanted, and life has decided she can't have second best, either. Both woman played their roles strongly while occasionally dealing with the unexpected from the production.
Andrea Syglowski did a stunning turn as Natasha, the poor, badly dressed commoner who is married by Andrey, the only brother in the family, who slowly insinuates herself into a ruthless command of everyone in the family.
Kudos to Keith Randolph Smith as the drunken doctor whose inability to cure all the problems he recognizes has frozen his soul, and to Lynn Cohen as the aging servant of the sisters who has served them all their lives and now is a burden on them.
The whole cast gives total commitment to this irregular concept of this classic play, and while I don't think it's the definitive ''Three Sisters,'' I think it's a challenging and stimulating one, indeed.