"Three Sistahs" will be around awhile longer, and that's good news for audiences in search of a soulful evening of music, drama and comedy presented by three powerhouse performers. The robust, world-premiere musical at Alexandria's MetroStage was scheduled to close several weeks ago but has now been extended through Dec. 1.

First things first. The promotional material suggests "Three Sistahs" is inspired by the classic play, "Three Sisters," by Anton Chekhov. Forget that. Even if the Russian drama did spur Janet Pryce and Thomas W. Jones II to write the story, or Jones to write the lyrics for William Hubbard's music, this is not some hip-hop adaptation. There may be similarity in the names of the siblings but promoting the relationship is a misguided attempt to establish credibility. And these "Three Sistahs" don't need the help, thank you very much.

Chekhov examined what it means to be a human being through the experiences and aspirations of his characters and that's certainly in evidence here. But the Russian's characters offer a howl of desperation, and the women we find here ultimately present a rousing affirmation of faith.

It's 1969 and the setting is an old-fashioned but well-tended home in Washington, D.C., where Marsha, Olive and Irene have just returned from the funeral of their brother, who was serving in Vietnam at the insistence of their late father, a strict military man. Both parents have died in the preceding two years. The three sisters are all that is left of the family, and they spend that night and the next morning coming to grips with their loss, generational frictions at a time of great societal change, old family secrets, and what their futures might hold.

Their time together is a mixture of joy and sadness for the sisters, which translates into both comedy and drama for the audience, mixed in with an uplifting score of almost two-dozen songs that range from gospel to pop, an anthem or two, poignant ballads and boisterous blues.

Leading the tight ensemble is Bernardine Mitchell, last year's Helen Hayes winner for Outstanding Lead Actress for "Blues in the Night" at Arena Stage. As the eldest sister, Olive, Mitchell sets the pace for TV actress Crystal Fox ("In the Heat of the Night") as middle sister Marsha and Desire{acute} DuBose, last seen at MetroStage in "Harlem Rose" but put to better use here as the youngest sister, Irene. Fox is wrapping up her stint in the production this weekend, leaving for a previously accepted role in a play about to start at Round House Theatre in Bethesda. She will be replaced next Wednesday by Roz White Gonzales, also a Helen Hayes Award winner, for her role in "Bessie's Blues" a few years back at Studio Theatre.

Each of these singer/actresses could easily headline a show and fill a theater with their energy. Together, they are a controlled explosion of talent, backed by composer William Hubbard on piano along with a bass and a sometimes too raucous percussion.

"Three Sistahs" is not musical comedy, although there are laughs. While quite different in flavor, its design and flow can be compared to the work of Stephen Sondheim, although with melody and emotion. Fairly serious issues affecting not only this family but also the larger African American community at a time of shifting pressures are explored and MetroStage Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin hopes the combination of music and message will interest Broadway producers.

Writer Jones directs as well, and he deftly guides his cast through scenes requiring realistic shifts in temperament that ultimately lead to substantial changes in tone. The overall effect is of real life explored, aided by Milagros Ponce de Le{acute}on's large and convincingly detailed set, the first of its type at MetroStage's current location.

"Three Sistahs," playing at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St., Alexandria, runs through Dec. 1. Showtime is 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays. For reservations or information, call 703-548-9089.

Crystal Fox, from left, Bernardine Mitchell and Desire DuBose star in MetroStage's "Three Sistahs."