Loosely based on the Bronte family dynamics (three sisters and their brother Patrick), playwright Jami Brandli has fashioned a convoluted tale of family secrets, siblings rivalries, and personal tragedies – all told with tongue-in-cheek. A finalist for The Source Festival and a semi-finalist for The Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, Inkwell Theater presents the Los Angeles premiere of SISTERS THREE at the VS Theatre.
SISTERS THREE is set at Christmas, which makes it perfect for the 2018 holiday season. Sisters Anne (Kara Hume) and E.J. (Dana DeRuyck) are busy finishing up a canoe which they plan to use to rescue their absent sister Charlotte (Robyn Cohen) from a remote island commune. Apparently, after their brother’s untimely and premature death at his own hand, Charlotte simple lost it, dropped out of society, and joined a no-technology commune on Gondol Island to get away from it all. But there is a sibling dynamic which cannot be denied. As Anne so aptly frames it, “We are better together than apart.”
Each of the sisters harbors her own variety of eccentricity. For the whole family is plagued by their allegiance to the arts. We have authors, poets, painters – each with their own special method to communicate their view of the world. They are very different on the surface; yet they might be very alike underneath. SISTERS THREE explores these issues with a nod to lightness and even laughter from time to time.
Directed by Annie McVey, SISTERS THREE is a timely study of three artistic eccentrics struggling with their own demons after their brother’s death. Keeping with the current entertainment emphasis on female protagonists, the play focuses on complex sibling dynamics when under pressure and experiencing tragedy. The three actors who portray the sisters manage to highlight their differences, each from the other, and yet their ultimate connection. Lex Gernon’s set is adequate if bland – except, of course, for the large canoe at its center. John Zalewski’s sound, Joey Guthman’s lighting, and Allison Dillard’s costumes fill the bill nicely. Fight director Collin Bressie deserves kudos for making fencing fun to watch as the ladies leap from sofa to tabletop with swords flashing.
SISTERS THREE will appeal on several levels – as a study of siblings in crisis, as a clever clone of the famous Bronte quartet, and as a parsing of dysfunction in three very talented but kind of crazy women. At the same time, it is sometimes difficult to follow – almost as if a page from the piece was lost but the actors continued on anyway. The excellent work of the three stars keeps the audience’s interest despite some muddled motivations. And SISTERS THREE certainly adds new dimensions to the concept of family dysfunction.
SISTERS THREE runs through January 20, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Added performances at 8 p.m. on Thursday 12/20 and 12/27 and on Monday 1/7 and 1/14. The VS Theatre is located at 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019. Tickets range from $15 to $35. For information and reservations, go online.