Bronte Sisters Updated in Jami Brandi's Sisters Three

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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Jami Brandli has had success reconfiguring ancient stories in interesting ways; her Bliss(or Emily Post is Dead) recently garnered acclaim at the Atwater Village Theater Complex. Now Brandli’s Sisters Three presents the ill-fated Bronte family, three eccentric women suffering the aftermath of their cherished brother’s death, brought up-to-date, out of the vicarage, and into a college student housing single.

E.J. (that is…Emily Ann of Wuthering Heights fame), played by  Dana DeRuyck, has been recast as a graduate mathemetician attempting to solve the Reiman Hypothesis. Her sister, Anne (a cheeky Kara Hume), has moved in to E.J.’s small student housing, dragging a two-seat canoe along with her.

Her plan, we are soon told, is to rescue Charlotte (an operatic Robyn Cohen) from an island communal retreat. Her scheme involves tempting Charlotte with her favorite cupcakes after paddling across the lake in the rennovated canoe she has been assembling in E.J.’s cramped one-room. Through this, Anne’s conversations with E.J. reveal the sisters’ past relationships with their brother and each other. The piece culminates when a drenched Charlotte appears, having swum all the way from the commune (without the aid of the aforementioned canoe).

As it stands now, the play maintains an uncertain tragectory, teetering irresolutely between sarcasm and satire. We are never sure if we should be amused or appalled. De Ruyck has one of the most successful runs of the evening in a bi-polar fit. But the humor – or the satire – never quite gels. It feels to me as if director Annie McVey doesn’t want to tread too heavily on the material but to let it breathe on its own. Evaluated as a work in progress, Sisters Three shows promise with the question to be resolved as “to what end”?

I should mention that Inkwell Theater’s mandate showcases new and promising workshopped plays, and as such, the play has a stripped down, bare bones feel. Lex Gernon’s setting takes advantage of the tiny stage, using actual dimensions and real doorways to manifest the claustrophic, single apartment augmented by Rebecca Carr’s set dressing. Alison Dillard’s costumes pinpoint the current period, while Joey Guthman’s lighting fills in the blanks. John Zalewski, too, fleshes out the feel of the outdoors at key moments. The impressive (and out of context) sword fight between sisters was achieved by Collin Bressie’s fight choreography.

The Inkwell Theater presents Sisters Three; running at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm, Sundays (added performances at 8pm on Thursday 12/27 and Monday 1/7 & 1/14) through January 20, 2019. VS Theatre is located at 5453 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 90010. Tickets are $10-20. For reservations: https://inkwelltheater.com