Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Smart Production of John Kolvenbach's Sister Play
Magic Theatre

Richard's reviews of In a Word and Nick & Nora and Jeanie's review of Death of a Salesman


Patrick Kelly Jones. Jessi Campbell, and Lisa Brescia
Sister Play, currently at the Magic Theatre, is a comedy drama about two sisters who are so close they can't see that they are driving each other batty. They have contrary views on everything including relationships. Older sister Anna (Jessi Campbell) is a control freak and excessively protective of her younger sister Lilly (Lisa Brescia). She also has a weak husband named Malcolm (Anthony Fusco) who has a sardonic manner. He does a lot of talking to himself and the audience throughout the two-hour drama, including humorous asides about the sisterly melees. The play starts out leisurely with the two sisters establishing their relationship and sometimes not projecting the dialogue into the audience of this three-sided theatre. It finally takes off when a stranger named William (Patrick Kelly Jones) enters the scene toward the end of the first act.

The stranger is a mild mannered man-child with the social graces of a seven-year-old. He comes to the cabin completely disheveled and, let's face it, he looks like bum. He is the catalyst who disrupts the delicate balance among Anna, Lilly, and Malcolm.

Act two is the stronger act and begins with some lovely stage business with Anna, Lilly, and Malcolm silently setting the dining room table. Their simple actions reveal each character. During dinner they break out in song with a rousing version of "Blue Bayou." Suddenly, after their joyful number, William arrives in a new suit and I am reminded of the Gentleman Caller in The Glass Menagerie. In a monotone voice, he talks about how he hitchhiked to New York to buy the new suit and got rides back to the cabin with various people. He proposes marriage to Lilly even though they just met 24 hours prior.

Jessi Campbell gives an intriguing performance as the older sister Anna. Her protective zeal is a moving as it is jolting. Lisa Brescia is fine as Lilly the "free spirited" younger sister who finally breaks the bond between them. You can honestly believe there are sisters.

Anthony Fusco is flawless as the alcoholic husband Malcolm. He has some of the smartest and erudite lines in the play. He gives a lovely monologue about being a mere pamphlet wedged between two complementary tomes in one speech to the audience.

Patrick Kelly Jones gives a charismatic performance as William. He reminds me of Tom Hanks from Forrest Gump and he has that southern drawl.

Erik Flatmo has designed an excellent detailed set of a ramshackle cabin with musty books on the walls and dilapidated furnishings. Sitting in the front row I thought I was in the cabin.

Sister Play through April 19, 2015, at Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd. For tickets call 415-441-8822 or visit http://magictheatre.org/tickets. Coming up next will be Luis Alfaro's The Golden State "Part One: Delano," starting May 20th in previews and running through June 14th.


Photo: Jennifer Reiley


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema


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