AISLE SAY San Francisco


Written & Directed by John Kolvenbach
Presented by & at Magic Theatre
Building D, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco / (415) 441-8822

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Sisterly bonds are enduring, as seen in "Sister Play" at Magic Theatre.

Written and directed by John Kolvenbach, it's set in a deteriorating Cape Cod cottage where three family members are making their annual visit.

The book-packed, moldy cottage (set by Erik Flatmo) belonged to the father of Anna (Lisa Brescia) and her younger sister, Lilly (Jessi Campbell). Anna, married to author Malcolm (Anthony Fusco), has been a surrogate mother to Lilly, now 30, ever since their father died some 15 years ago. Their mother had essentially abandoned them before that.

Lilly has floundered in life, drifting from one loser boyfriend to another, while the overly protective Anna tries to serve as her anchor. In the meantime, low-key Malcolm loves his wife and does what he can to understand the sisterly dynamics and sometimes stay away from them.

Things change one night when Lilly goes out for a drive and brings back a drifter, called Man in the program but named William Casy (Patrick Kelly Jones). Although his clothing is rumpled and dirty from his life on the road (costumes by Alex Jaeger), the Texan is polite and well spoken, even eloquent. He's attracted to Lilly, who reciprocates.

Malcolm comes to accept him, especially since he's just read and liked Malcolm's latest book. Anna wants him to leave and never return. She doesn't trust him, especially where Lilly is concerned.

Thanks to William's persistence, however, both sisters begin to alter their stances.

As the playwright, Kolvenbach has written some humorous lines. As the director, he elicits well-timed performances from all four members of this outstanding cast. The two men are especially noteworthy, as is Campbell as Lilly. Brescia as Anna has perhaps the most difficult role because the character is so controlling and sometimes brittle, yet she means well and deeply loves her sister and husband.

Running just over two hours with one intermission, the play has interesting, sometimes off-kilter insights into family dynamics, especially between sisters.

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