STAGE

Rosamund Small’s Soulpep­per adap­ta­tion of an Edith Whar­ton novella is dra­mat­i­cally cap­ti­vat­ing and vis­ually en­chant­ing

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - stage@nowtoronto.com | @so­many­dreams By DEB­BIE FEIN-GOLDBACH

SIS­TERS by Rosamund Small (Soulpep­per). ñ At Young Cen­tre for the |Per­form­ing Arts (50 Tank House). Runs to Septem­ber 16. $32-$96. 416-866-8666, soulpep­per.ca. See Con­tin­u­ing, this page. Rat­ing: NNNN

Re­la­tion­ships be­tween sib­lings have al­ways made for com­pelling sto­ries, and Rosamund Small’s new play is no ex­cep­tion. Sis­ters is dra­mat­i­cally cap­ti­vat­ing and vis­ually en­chant­ing.

Adapted from Edith Whar­ton’s novella Bun­ner Sis­ters, the play takes place in a down­trod­den New York City neigh­bour­hood at the turn of the last cen­tury. Two sis­ters, Ann (Laura Condlln) and Evelina (Ni­cole Power), strug­gle to make ends meet as seam­stresses while liv­ing to­gether in the back of their shop. Soon enough their lives get in­ter­rupted with ro­man­tic no­tions re­gard­ing Mr. Ramy (Kevin Bundy), a Ger­man clock­maker.

The story is quite straight­for­ward and even pre­dictable, par­tic­u­larly from our 21st-cen­tury per­spec­tive, but

that doesn’t dampen the pro­duc­tion’s emo­tional im­pact. Al­though there are moments be­fore the drama ramps up that drag, Small’s script beau­ti­fully high­lights the sig­nif­i­cance of female fel­low­ship, not just be­tween the bi­o­log­i­cal sis­ters but with the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters as well.

Condlln car­ries the show. Her Ann is self­lessly de­voted to her sis­ter yet al­ways evolv­ing. She evokes re­spect, but never pity, as she goes from naïve to en­light­ened by life’s hard truths. Condlln and Power play off each other be­liev­ably, their bond strong de­spite the sis­ters’ dif­fer­ing per­son­al­i­ties. Bundy is charm­ing and per­sua­sive as Ramy.

Al­though the play takes se­ri­ous turns, sup­port­ing char­ac­ter Mrs. Mellins (Karen Robin­son) stands out as comic relief, es­pe­cially high­light­ing con­trasts be­tween men and women. Robin­son steals ev­ery scene with her world-weary fa­cial ex­pres­sions and bons mots. Raquel Duffy and El­lora Pat­naik round out the cast, dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing them­selves in nu­mer­ous sup­port­ing roles. The pro­duc­tion has a lyrical, dream­like feel. See­ing Michelle Tracey’s set de­sign is like peer­ing into a mu­sic box, and she in­ven­tively sets apart the scenes in Ramy’s shop. No item on the stage is su­per­flu­ous, which makes the re­moval of each piece of fur­ni­ture near the end even more poignant. Kim­berly Purtell’s light­ing works seam­lessly with Richard Feren’s sound, es­pe­cially in the train scene. Both are im­per­a­tive to the play’s mood, from the tick­ing of clocks to the well-timed swells of mu­sic and shad­ows.

All of this comes to­gether un­der Peter Pasyk’s del­i­cate di­rec­tion. On a small stage and set, he man­ages to place the char­ac­ters in many dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions around town. The se­quence at the Phil­har­monic is es­pe­cially amus­ing. And he fills the pro­duc­tion with myr­iad de­tails to take in.

Time is an im­por­tant theme in this play. Catch it while you can – the clocks are tick­ing.

Karen Robin­son (left) helps Laura Condlln in emo­tion­ally res­o­nant Sis­ters.

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