Playwright Gail Louw explores family connections and family secrets in this U.S. premiere of TWO SISTERS. Older sister Edith (Leda Siskind) is celebrating her 75th birthday with her four-year-younger sister Rika (Sharron Shayne) at Edith’s home on a kibbutz in northern Israel. One of the early pioneering kibbutznik collective farmers, Edith stayed in Israel and made a life for herself. Her sister remained in Europe to become a Holocaust survivor. Following the birthday celebration, Rika is planning to leave for New York, taking with her Janine, her 18-year-old granddaughter. However, the youthful Janine has other plans with her boyfriend, leaving a lonely Rika alone again.
This character piece studies the relationship between the two sisters: one, a strong and capable woman ready to stand against the world; and the other, a fragile and needy girl wearing the mask of a woman. As they slowly begin to confide in each other, a union quietly grows; and secrets come to the fore. Their duet slowly swells, offering each of them something they need and want – even if they weren’t aware of it before.
The acting is moving in this two-person cast as each sister quietly circles the other in the attempt to understand and accept. They squabble like most sisters – but their sense of family overcomes their personal demons. Not much happens in TWO SISTERS, and parts of the play are painfully slow as the women inch towards each other. It is a tale about awakening and acceptance between two women who are coming from very different places. It is a story of self-exploration. It is a celebration of the importance of family.
Director Stewart J. Zully ably helms this production, carefully encouraging baby steps as the sisters come to understand each other better. As always, the Theatre 40 production team has outdone itself. Jeff G. Rack’s set is near perfect in evoking the 1990’s, when the play is set. Lighting (Ric Zimmerman), sound (Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski), and costumes (Michele Young) add to the dramatic effect of the piece.