THREE SISTERS, CollaborAction Theatre Company, at the Performance Loft. If there’s one script young actors should probably avoid, even if they are the right age for some of the roles, it’s this Chekhov heartbreaker. Defeated from the start, the characters mistake drift for destiny: the title trio are ripe for a dynamic life that will never come. There’s no present tense in Three Sisters; instead denial, nostalgia, idealism, and ambition ensure that the actual will succumb to the imagined. That’s not the way many young people see life. Undermining these CollaborAction performances is the subtext “This will never happen to me.” Chekhov says otherwise, which makes this one of those nonnegotiable dramas in which the actors must have suffered before they can play their parts.

Kimberly Senior’s stylized staging, employing Lanford Wilson’s matter-of-fact adaptation, gives the characters a kind of wacky 1950s expressionism. Except for the three sisters and their two lost lovers, the acting is cartoonish: it seems we’re meant to care for the sisters because they’re so much more real than the caricatures surrounding them. But a process of elimination is a poor way to create sympathy.

Perhaps because they’re the right age for the sisters, Merrie Greenfield, Julie Paparella, and Allison Talis come closest to capturing their characters’ longings and losses. The others–especially Liza Bryn Williams, who plays aged Anfisa as a dizzy dumbbell–must still pay their dues in order to make Chekhov live. Experience counts. –Lawrence Bommer