Director Geoff Brittain has drawn some strong acting from his cast in Beth Henley’s examination of sisterly interaction, set in 1970s Mississippi. Many still relevant social issues are introduced, including domestic violence, loyalty, loneliness and racism, yet it is through the continually realigning relationships of the central three characters that the essential points are made.
Ole Wiebkin’s set effectively portrays the era and provides a functional backdrop to the action. Indeed, behind the domestic kitchen/living area we can see a traditional backdrop of the outer world.
Somewhat like a murder mystery, the script reveals bit by bit, the motives and back-stories which bring us to the present day.
Importantly, the three sisters are distinct and clearly defined. Their relationships with one another are ever-changing – in turns connected and dysfunctional. While relating to each other, at times even lovingly, they are essentially individual, even self-obsessed.
Allison Scharber, playing Babe who has just shot her husband but is home on bail, handles the challenging role well. She is especially convincing when grudgingly allowing the truth of her motives, and the actions which led to the shooting, to be drawn from her. By contrast, Cheryl Douglas’ character, the chain-smoking Meg, is superficially more confident and worldly. Douglas succeeds in the main in showing Meg teetering between smug glibness and self-doubt. She especially succeeds when recounting her lying to their morbidly ill grandfather about her show business career.
Central to the family relationships and to the action of the entire play is the character Lenny. Georgia Stockham plays the complex, self-doubting and lonely older sister with skill and empathy. She draws our attention and carries us through her changing emotions – often desperately sad, yet at times elated.
This is a dark comedy, most notably illustrated when the three sisters are discussing their grandfather’s medical emergency and coma. As often occurs in this script, the sisters converse at cross purposes. All three performers excel in this scene, showing acute timing and subtlety. Stockham and Scharber’s suppressed, disrespectful mirth really hits the mark.
In support, Steve Marvanek does well as Meg’s former beau, Doc, as does Deborah Proeve as the small town socialite, Chick, while Adam Schultz shows good form as Babe’s attorney, and admirer, Barnette.
While there is an occasionally misaligned Southern accent, this production evokes the time, place and attitudes of its setting, and succeeds in presenting the complexity of the three sisters and the challenging world around them.
Reviewed by David Smith