There's nothing like a good untimely death to bring a family together. And so Carolina (Royana Black) and young Baltimore (Jen Eldridge) arrive at their mother's home after receiving news of her death less than a day before. Poor Baltimore did not expect to see her dead mother still lying in the bathtub. Their sister Austin (Bettina Adger), who was there when it happened, didn't think to call anyone to come pick up the body; a fact that horrifies her sisters. Austin suggests that they all have a drink as they wait for the final sister to arrive. And the wake begins.
The four sisters are as different in their personalities as the cities themselves, or state in Carolina's case. Carolina is a successful, no-nonsense lawyer for whom most things are either right or wrong, black or white. And in this corner is Austin, a best-selling author who hasn't writen anything since her first novel that received raves from the New York Times. She thrives in the gray area because that's where she hides her feelings inside a wry wit. Dallas (Darcy Martin) is the classic middle child. She is the peacemaker and the negotiator. She needs structure and for things to be in perfect order (just like her husband, her home with a picket fence, her life). Bringing up the rear as the epitome of id, is the baby of the bunch, Harvard student Baltimore (Jen Eldridge).
So what happens when you put these four women in the same house to grieve over the loss of the only person that connects them? And what happens when the cause of death may not be suicide as the sisters were told over the phone? And perhaps most important, is it ever a good idea to poison your sister?
This ensemble of players is truly fun to watch. They capture a long-standing sibling rivalry, cemented with the blood of childhood wounds inflicted by their own mother as well as on each other. Their banter is abrasive and endearing at all the right moments. The quartet is sexy and vulnerable, and truly draws its audience in to their tale. The second act allows us a peek at their infamous Mary (Bibi Tinsley), shedding light on what she has become and providing a glimpse of the young wildcat she once was. I particularly enjoyed sister Dallas' gradual induction of the F-word into her delicate vocabulary.
This Alliance Repertory Company production throws in a touch of multimedia, splashing projections of the myriad men their mother had been with. The array of suitors is varied and random, so we see how much of a 'free spirit' their mother was in her youth, in her life. Playwright Colette Freedman has written a witty, smart piece in 'Sister Cities'. Director Lisa Cole does a great job capturing the underlining sisterly love that binds these women together, despite their polarized personalities.
No one can decide with whom they have a biological connection. The only thing we get to decide in life, is what relationships we chose to nurture and which ones we allow to fall by the wayside. This play is an important lesson in the value of working through difficult family relationships. After all, for the each of the four characters of 'Sister Cities', these are the only three sisters she's got.
'Sister Cities' runs now thru May 26, 2007.
Friday & Saturday nights, 8pm
Alexia Robinson Studio/Third Stage
2811 Magnolia Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91505
Photos by: Bryan Kapta