Elmer's English 304 Magazine
Say Yes To Sex
Essay for Dr. Peter Dickinson's English 206 Class
While a stage play is built on dialogue, a screenplay deals with pictures. I want to adapt into screenplays scenes from the first half of Act II of Three Sisters and Act I Scene 4 of Sisters Rosensweig. While each adaptation is more visual, I will keep much of the original dialogue. To increase the appeal to a contemporary audience, I will increase the "eroticism" of each scene, while remaining true to the integrity of each play. The scene from Three Sisters, written for audiences a century ago, will be cut and rearranged, substantially, from Act II, while the scene from Sisters Rosensweig will survive relatively intact. Furthermore, I will add a character, used in flashbacks, to each scene - Mrs. Prozorov in Three Sisters and Rita Rosensweig in Sisters Rosensweig. My approach will be that of a "mini-treatment" of each scene.
Three Sisters: Act II. Scene 1: 6:00PM. Drawing room. The furniture is from the turn of the last century, with two sofas, an easy chair, coffee tables, and a desk. There is a dinning room upstage right. The last rays of the setting sun pour through a large window fronting onto a winter scene: the long driveway leading to the house (and to Moscow.)
Natasha and Andrei, standing, discuss Bobik's need for Irina's bedroom. Natasha wants Adrei to cancel the evening's Shrovetide party. A baby cries off set. Natasha leaves. Andrei follows her, but when she rebuffs him at the door to her room, he turns and goes to his room. (Cut the interaction between Ferapont and Andrei, moving it to Act II.2.)
The interaction between Mash and Vershinin, and Irina and Tuzenbach forms the bulk of the scene. Irina's character needs to be modernized. Irina is an attractive 21year old woman. So I'd give her Solyony and Tuzenbach as lovers, relationships we already know from Act I. Act II.1 and 2 explore her relationships with Tuzenbach and Solyony, respectively. Then Tuzenbach and Solyony duel for Irina in Act IV.
In the scene, Masha and Vershinin are so casually comfortable together, we know they've been lovers since Act I, a year ago. The beautiful dialogue between them remains intact. As they sit on the sofa, we see, through the window, Irina and Tuzenbach walking up the driveway. Masha laughs at Vershinin's tender talk. He is about to kiss her when Tuzenbach and Irina enter. Irina and Tuzenbach sit on the other sofa. The happy couples talk about Moscow and the future as in the play. We hear a violin. Cut to Andrei playing his violin in his room. Cut back to the drawing room.
Chekbutykin enters, asks for Andrei, and goes to his room to play chess. Cut to a flashback of Mrs. Prozorov and Chebutykin, her lover, playing chess in her room years ago. Cut to Masha and Vershinin entering Olga's room, then to Irina and Tuzenbach entering her room. Cut to the empty drawing room. We hear sleigh bells. Natasha, dressed for winter, passes through the drawing room. Cut to Andrei and Chebutykin playing chess. Cut to drawing room where, through the window, we see Natasha getting into a sleigh. Cut to Irina and Tuzenbach making love. Cut to Vershinin and Masha making love. Cut Natasha's peal of laughter emanating from a covered sleigh, drawn by a team of snorting horses, departing down the driveway.
The next scene, Act II.2, is the party some time after 9:00 PM. Because Natasha couldn't stop the party, she invites Protopopov. Natasha, Irina and Masha are each sleeping with two of the men present.
Sisters Rosensweig: Act I. Scene 4: 11:00 PM after dinner. Comfortable living room - a modern version of the drawing room of Three Sisters. There is a dinning room upstage right. Gorgeous clears dishes into the kitchen.
Geoffrey, Pfeni, Merv, Sara, Nick, Tess and Tom are at various locations. I'd use the same dialogue as in the play. Pfeni and Geoffrey dance to a Sinatra song. They dance so well that Geoffrey maintains his running conversation with Sara and the others. Finally, Merv and Sara are alone and have the opportunity to get to know one another.
Because the sex in Three Sisters was implied, it was easy to bring it to the surface. In Sisters Rosensweig the sex lies buried under words like shtup, Geoffrey's bi-sexuality, and Sara's hysterectomy. Nick's "lizard-like presence," like Kulygin's provincial pedantry, is also sexually inhibiting. But Sara and Merv's conversation reminds me of the conversation between Vershinin and Masha. Sara's character needs warming up. A few flashbacks to Sara and Rita during the scene would help. As examples, I would include flashbacks when Merv asks if Sara's mother was Jewish, and when Merv talks about Sara getting double 800's on her College Boards. Unlike Masha and Vershinin's love making, that of Merv and Sara does not mean much. It's a one-night stand, enjoyed by both. So end the scene with Sara, playing Sonia Kirschenblatt, shtupping Merv as if he was a Columbia sophomore.
Why do Merv and Sara not "fall into a romance?" They are both available and financially secure. Sara could have Merv and her career. Tess, Gorgeous and Pfeni like him. Merv is a 50+ woman's "prince." After Merv leaves, Sara agrees to a date with Nicholas Pym. So that's it. Nick is Sara's disposable Kulygin. Merv (or someone else) could still be her "prince" after all. This is just the upbeat ending we need for The Sisters Rosensweig.
Checkov, Anton. Three Sisters. Trans. Lanford Wilson. New York: Dramatists Play
Wasserstein, Wendy. The Sisters Rosenweig. New York: Dramatists Play