Review by Janet I. Martineau
Ahhhh, the plight of sisterly trios.
Russia’s Anton Chekhov explored it in “Three Sisters.” And Beth Henley set her “Crimes of the Heart” study of them in the American south.
Two classic theater works.
So it was with great expectation when the Bay City Players mounted Wendy Wasserstein’s Jewish treatment of the theme in “The Sisters Rosensweig.” The 1991 play had, after all, won a Tony nomination and actresses by the names of Jane Alexander, Madeline Kahn and Frances McDormand had, over the years, been cast in the roles.
But, well, why was it that in the performance we saw Sunday afternoon it was two of the MEN in the cast who caught our attention and that we found the script overly long and flawed.
As performed by Susan Meade, Debbie Lake and Debra Monroe, and directed by Joanne Berry, these three sisters were a bit of a bore. Their acting chemistry didn’t even jell enough to make us believe they were sisters.
Lake at least had her moments as the flamboyant middle sister named Gorgeous -- a New England housewife/radio personality who has kept the Jewish faith. Lake knows how to deliver a line with the right inflections ... but what was with her head always cocked upward. It looked painful, was distracting and did not in any way help define her character.
Meade looked uncomfortable and unsure in her role as the oldest sister, whose 54th birthday they are meeting to celebrate. Her Sara Goode is a cold, distant snob who lives in England, works as a high level banker and has forsaken her faith...so granted this is not the most warm character in the world. But Meade does nothing to help us like her anyway.
Monroe is the middle sister, Pfeni Duncan -- a jet-setting journalist always off to cover the next crisis in the world and with no place to really call home. She should be a spitfire, right? Sometimes she is barely in character, or so it seems.
All three improved in the second act, which overall was more lively than the first one which crawled. And when they all plopped on the sofa to just gab and come to grips with their lives, for a brief few minutes there they did seem like real sisters and were inviting.
Good from the get go, however, were John Tanner as a New York furrier who is a guest for dinner and tries to woo Meade’s character ad Paul Oslund as a theater director who has been dating Pfeni but also likes men.
Both Tanner and Oslund display plenty of energy and nuances and focus in their characters, with Tanner comfortable and believable with every movement and line. Tanner’s character is wise and gentle; Osland’s flamboyant and fun-loving. Together they are magic and put a spark in the play.
Another plus is the set design by Leeds Bird and Mike Wisniewski along with its decoration and the attending props -- all lending a sense of reality.