Recommended *** One of my sisters (I have three) is fond of that old saying – friends may come and go, but sisters are forever. Colette Freedman’s insightful play, “Sister Cities”, reaffirms that adage. Although sisters may quarrel – and frequently go for the jugular (because we know exactly who/what/when/where it is) – in the end, that shared history means everything. At times, I could see and hear my own sisters, which is what made “Sister Cities” feel so real. I give it 4 Spotlights.
Parents sometimes do strange things to their children, things they think are cute. My parents gave me and my six siblings names which started with the letter “C”. My mom thought it was cute to sign her Christmas cards Bill, Judy and the 7 C’s. In the play, the sisters were named for the cities where they were born, except for the oldest, Carolina (Katlynn Yost), who was named for a state, actually two states. In order of age, the others are Austin (Nicole Fabbri), Dallas (Anna Donnell) and Baltimore (Norma Chacon).
The plot – siblings gathering/fighting after a parent’s death – has been done before, but it’s always worth revisiting. After all, there’s all those delicious resentments from childhood which do have a habit of resurfacing. There’s sibling rivalry with assigned roles like the favorite, the spoiled brat, the baby (we often called our youngest sister an itch), the smartest, the trouble-maker. In my family, we had the four “big” kids and the three “little” kids. The four of us are rarely together yet my oldest brother still calls us the “big” kids. Then there’s all the fun adult stuff – who stayed and who left, who’s successful and who’s not. Finally, there’s Mom/Dad’s stuff – who’s getting what is always good for an argument.
The only reason these sisters are together is their mother’s shocking suicide. Caroline, who prefers to be called Carol, is a very successful lawyer in Seattle. She’s no sooner in the door than she starts in on Austin. When Baltimore, a grad student at Harvard, comes downstairs and announces that Mom’s in the tub, Carolina really freaks out, calls the coroner’s office to pick up the body and fights with the operator. After Dallas, a married teacher, arrives demanding explanations, Austin explains that Mom killed herself because she had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
In a flashback, their mother, Mary (Rainee Denham), a former dancer, explains to Austin what it’s like to be trapped inside a body which no longer works. As she tells Austin what to do before and after her death, she also predicts how her other daughters, especially Carolina, will react. As she reminisces, sharing details about her life, her career, her four husbands, and the cities she’d loved.
Once they get over the initial shock, they share some vodka and reminisce. At one point, they all laughingly admitted they were wearing matching underwear, quoting a verse Mom quoted often, which goes something like – if you match your bra and knickers, you’ll avoid a policeman’s snickers. That so reminded me of my mother’s rule about always wearing clean underwear, just in case you’re ever in an accident! In the end, anger and resentment gives way to family unity.
Chimera Ensemble donates a portion of the profits from their work to worthy causes. Since ALS is central to the plot of “Sister Cities”, Chimera is donating 10% of the profits to the ALS Foundation.
Running time is 90 minutes, no intermission.
Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays s at 3:00 pm. Tickets range from $22-$26. Paid parking is available in the lot at Division and Paulina about three blocks from the Den (Pick up and pay at the Den Box Office). FYI www.ChimeraEnsemble.com or www.brownpapertickets.com.
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