The Killing of Sister George
Designer Allen Moyer provides a visually colorful London flat, complete with sofa, chair, period wallpaper, and many dolls. The BBC radio soap opera called "Applehurst" includes a leading character named June (Turner) and that individual is a sweet nurse. June, in real life, drinks heavily and smokes thin cigars. She is nothing short of hideously mean-spirited to her younger, prettier lover, Alice "Childie" McNaught (the exceptionally talented Clea Alsip). June coerces Childie to, for example, bite off and munch the ends of cigars.
You might find it appropriate that Sister George is to be killed and therefore eliminated on the radio show. Bringing that news is Mrs. Mercy Croft (Betsy Aidem), who is an executive for the BBC. It is surprising to learn that Mrs. Mercy, too, has an agenda. She is opinionated and has her own physical needs: let's leave it at that.
It isn't easy to walk away from the theater feeling a great deal of sympathy for either of the leading characters. By the way, the fourth woman in the cast is actress Olga Merediz, who is comedic as she plays Madame Xenia coming on the scene to offer prognostications ...
Turner's June is almost cartoonish: this is one tough, difficult, always agitated, unpleasant woman. Turner also directs the show and, as a performer, she is strong and adept. The actress has real problems with her British accent which, taken in conjunction with her naturally husky speaking voice, presents the audience with the chore of discerning the dialogue.
Alsip was superb last year at Hartford's TheaterWorks in The Motherf**ker with the Hat. Now, she is excellent once again: lively, responsive, and most effective. She locates the humane side of Childie. She has a thing for the collection of dolls which is positioned downstage. This question lingers: is Childie, too, manipulative? Betsy Aidem plays the more-interesting-than-one-would-have-thought Mrs. Mercy with detail and control.
The Killing of Sister George is fairly straightforward stuff. Tuner wears a wig (designed by Paul Huntley) and sweater and skirt (provided by Jane Greenwood) which force her to look block-like. Alsip's sweet blonde bangs and mid-1960s outfits are precise and suitable.
The play is non-amusing and it is not easy to ascertain what genuinely would please or satisfy June Buckridge. She thinks she can dominate her little partner Childie, but that might not always be so. Childie, in turn, has her own dolls; to what end?
Turner has written that she and adapter Hatcher are hoping to discover something greater within the June/Childie relationship. As one who has not seen a previous production of the play, I cannot comment upon any attempted updating of the original script. The current presentation enjoys more meaningful moments during its second portion. If it were adjusted to proceed without intermission, running time would be about one hour and forty minutes. That option might facilitate more cogent plot development.
The Killing of Sister George continues at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through December 23rd. For ticket information, visit www.longwharf.org or call (203) 787-4282.
- Fred Sokol