Irina, the youngest sister, is virginal and flits around wearing white. Beginning the play on her 20th name day, Chekhov sets his theme, the struggle toward maturity. Whom will Irina marry -- a real life suitor, or an imagined love of her life dwelling in Moscow where the family once lived and where she longs to return? Masha is the married woman, sensitive, witty, a trained pianist. Now 25, she wed too young and, chafing at the bit of marital disappointment, carries on an affair with a dashing and idealistic officer temporarily stationed in town. Olga, the oldest, is the spinster (at a mere 28!), and a school teacher, motherly and protective toward her sisters , her students and toward the old servant woman.
Together the three sisters represent the three ages of women: emblematic and at the same time richly drawn, fully individualized characters.
The sisters and their brother, Andrey, are living fairly well, following the deaths of their parents, in a provincial Russian town in the late 19th Century (Three Sisters was written in 1900). The action centers around the family house. Things have been moving along in a kind of status quo, marked by the loves and enjoyments that link the siblings and their individual frustrations and longings, shaded by an elegiac sense of a better past.
But Andrey shakes the status quo. Unknown to his sisters, he's been gambling what's left of the family fortune, threatening the house's ownership. And he falls in love with, and then marries a coarse, noisy woman, Natasha, the opposite of the sisters in education,...