Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Sister Play" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

In John Kolvenbach's "Sister Play," four characters are caught up in their long-accepted roles. Since their mom left when the girls were young, Anna, the elder of two sisters (Lisa Brescia), has taken over as mom while the younger Lily (Jessi Campbell) has responded by becoming the wayward child. Even as adults, neither sister is happy with these roles, but they seem to have little interest in changing them. Meanwhile, Anna's husband Malcolm (Anthony Fusco), caught between his love for his wife and his inability to crack through Anna and Lily's sisterly bonds, has accepted his lesser spot in the trio…until William Casey arrives.

Played by Patrick Kelly Jones, William is a Texas-born drifter who would be out of place standing in an empty room. He is creepy, though apparently harmless. You have to suspend your disbelief to trust that Lily would pick him up standing on the highway in the middle of the night and bring him back to what was her father's summer house on Cape Cod, where she, Anna and Malcolm are vacationing; nonetheless, she does. And William sticks around. Self-conscious about coming from a lower social class, William rattles everyone's nerves.

The sisters have the key roles, but the meaty lines come from the men. Malcolm, especially, has a beautiful monologue in Act 2 about being a pamphlet stuck between two compendiums written in a language only they understand; William's musings on needing to act precipitously when you find someone you love make you both appreciate him and accept that he is…out of balance.

"Sister Play" is engrossing and keeps your attention through two long acts, separated by a ten minute intermission. The ensemble cast is excellent and Alex Jaeger's costuming adds an honest note to the production.


The San Francisco Theater  Blog Awards Division awards "Sister Play" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. We are awarding the BANGLE to the production, for the wonderful touch of having the characters, in costume, instead of a stage crew, preparing the dinner table for the beginning of Act 2. It involves us intimately in what will follow.

"Sister Play" is a fascinating night of theater, and if we could buy into William Casey a little more the rating would be even higher. As good an actor as Patrick Kelly Jones is, his William is just never going to get Lily. Ain't gonna happen. We give him one more night around the dinner table.

"Sister Play"
The Magic Theatre
Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco
Through April 19

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