The illusive search for happiness in ‘Three Sisters’

Apollinaire Theatre Company kicks off the New Year with a production of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” as adapted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts. Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques, performances run through Jan. 21 at Chelsea Theatre Works.
In this dark human comedy, the Prozorov sisters – Olga, Maria and Irina – are stuck in a provincial Russian outpost after the death of their father, a general in the Czar’s army.
They dream of happier times and long to return to the cosmopolitan Moscow of their childhood, but desire clashes with reality as they search for love, beauty, and meaning in their lives.

The award-winning Letts is the author of the plays “August: Osage County,” “Superior Donuts,” and “Killer Joe.”
At Apollinaire, Siobhan Carroll plays Irina, the youngest sister. A 2016 graduate of Boston University’s acting program, Siobhan grew up in Cleveland. Her parents emigrated to the states from Dublin in 1976. (Mom is from Clontraf, Dad from Artane.) Her father still knows Dublin so intimately that when Siobhan was visiting there by herself, he was able to guide her around the city streets by phone.
Siobhan’s local stage credits include: “Next To Normal” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Arts After Hours, and “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Scarlet Letter” at Classic Repertory Company. She is currently an intern at Underground Railway Theater Company and assistant directed Central Square Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
We spoke during rehearsals for “Three Sisters.” Here’s a condensed look at our conversation.
Q. How does the Tracy Letts adaptation vary from Chekhov’s original script? Is the story still set in 1900?
A. It’s still set in 1900. I think the most noticeable thing for audiences – for people who have read the play – is that it’s very condensed . . . People say things more simply.
Q. You play Irina, the youngest of the sisters. One reviewer noted that Letts’s vision of Irina is that she’s more self-aware than usual “when it comes to her figuring out that the sisters’ collective problem is not the elusiveness of happiness, but their inability to embrace fully anything other than its absence.”
A. In everything that Irina does, she seems to have a goal of what happiness would be. If she would just make it to Moscow, she’d be happy. If she would work, she would be happy. If she would meet a certain man, she would be happy. Bizarrely enough, there are men around. And she does get a job . . . She always has this outward projection [focusing on] that object that would make happiness achievable. Then that object isn’t necessarily achievable, so she shuts off any possibilities of being happy otherwise.
Q. The production at Apollinaire takes place in multiple locations within the theater. How will that work?
A. The audience will move between acts. We’re using three spaces . . . It’s nice, a really cool, intimate feeling. Anyone who’s been in that building knows that the rooms feel kind of appropriate for a Chekhov play. It’s kind of like sitting in their house with the characters while the scenes unfold.
Q. What first drew you to the arts?
A. I got into theater when I was around 13. There’s quite a theater scene in Cleveland, surprisingly enough. There’s a lot of opportunity for kids to take classes and be a part of shows, particularly in musicals. There’s a great performing arts center – The Beck Center for the Arts – near my house in Lakewood Ohio . . . It was a very welcoming community. Q. Do you recall your first time on stage?
A. My first time was kind of scarring (Laughing). I was brought to audition for “Annie” when I was five, and I just didn’t understand what auditions were. I think I was a pretty outgoing child, but for some reason the thought of singing in front of people on stage terrified me, so I cried and I left. I made my Mom take me home.
Q. What kind of theater makes a connection with you?
A. The examples that are coming to mind oddly are in Ireland and involve Irish plays. I went to the Becket Festival in Enniskillen. I think it was for their 2015 season, and that was wonderful . . . I saw this French company, Theatre NoNo’s, production of “Waiting For Godot” in French, and that was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.
Q. With your folks born in Ireland, would you say you come from a very traditional Irish home?
A. I should be careful. They would laugh at me so much if I made them sound too Irish. I mean they just are Irish. It’s one of those things, especially because they have accents – people constantly remind you that your family is Irish . . . I grew up in Cleveland where people aren’t adept at saying or knowing the name Siobhan . . . I don’t think I’ve ever gone into an audition in Ohio where I didn’t have to begin by explaining my name and why it looks like that . . . .My brother’s name is Jason. He was born in Ireland. Ironically enough, he got a very American name and I got a very Irish name.
Q. Were you blessed with any special mentors as you’ve come along in the arts?
A. I had an acting teacher, Mitchell Fields … He probably encouraged me the most out of anybody I know to be an actor. The first thing he ever gave me to work on was an Irina monologue (from “The Three Sisters”). It’s a little cool and crazy to be coming back to it in that way . . . When I got the role, he was the very first one I sent a Facebook message to – it’s like,” It’s happening!!!”
R. J. Donovan is Editor and Publisher of
“Three Sisters,” Apollinaire Theatre at Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea. Through Jan. 21. Info at 617-887-2336 or