StageSceneLA: “Terrific work” in APRIL, MAY & JUNE

April, May, & June may be more Lifetime Channel sitcom than Chekhov, but once the play gets past its expository-dialog crash course in four decades of family dysfunction, Gary Goldstein’s entertaining World Premiere look at three sisters so close in age they could almost be triplets yields its fair share of both laughter and emotional rewards.

Mom’s recent death has brought April (Jennifer Lee Laks), May (Jennifer Taub), and June (Meredith Thomas) back to their Long Island childhood home to pack up a lifetime of clutter and kitsch, and it doesn’t take long for forty or so years of grudges to resurface.

April still resents that since Dad would never shell out for a den, the sisters had to watch TV in the living room, and she accuses Daddy’s Girl May of always making excuses for their parents.

May still can’t get past the fact that April and June got scholarships and she didn’t (and she still blames everything that’s ever happened to her, “good, bad, and indifferent,” on “middle-child syndrome, a well-established fact.”) .

And this is even before June has arrived from Chicago, eager to change out of her stilettos and sexy black work sheath for the comfort of flats and lesbian plaid.

That’s right. Youngest sis is a gal-loving gal, info revealed in exposition that strives more for laughs than authenticity.

April: We’re like twins, but only one took her sweet time coming out.
May: No, that’d be June.
April: Actually, when it came to coming out, June spent no time at all.

Similar exchanges reveal that Dad was a drunk, Mom was an enabler who stuck around for the sake of the children, and that the two straight sisters have each married a version of their father, though with different results. (April: “I never wanted to repeat Mom’s mistakes while you validated her choices by forcing yourself to make the same ones.”)

As for June, youngest sis has fared no better in love than anyone else in her family, having recently split from a cheating Tess, though at least she and “the slut” didn’t tie the same-sex marital knot.

No wonder, then, that when the Chicago businesswoman notices that “it’s three o’clock New York time, eight p.m. London time,” meaning that they’re “running a little late for cocktail hour,” it matters not that Mom banished all liquor from the house after her boozer hubby’s death, June heads off to check and see if maybe there might just be a hidden bottle.

Three guesses as to what she finds and another as to whether or not this discovery loosens tongues just itching to get loosened.

I wish April, May, & June relied less on sitcom-style setup-and-punch for its laughs. (May: So, you and Kenny went tit for tat? April: Once Kenny started shopping for tit, I was all tat.)

Still, the deeper we delve into the three sisters’ lives, the more real April, May, & June (both the play and its titular trio) becomes, and when one of Mom’s drawers reveals a long-hidden secret stash of _____, expect heart-felt Act Two exchanges and a final fadeout that may hold no surprises but does offer significant rewards.

Director Terri Hanauer elicits some terrific work from a trio of L.A. favorites believably bonded by onstage sisterhood, from Laks’ tightly-wound, seemingly self-confident April to Taub’s earthy, self-deprecating May to Thomas’s sexy, salty-tongued June.

Scenic designer Jeff G. Rack’s appropriately kitschy living room has been lit with subtle expertise by Ric Zimmerman. Michèle Young’s costumes tell us much about each character before she even opens her mouth. And Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski gives April, May, & June a pitch-perfect Motown soundtrack, from Stevie Wonder’s show-opening “I Wish” to Diana Ross And The Supreme’s curtain call-backing “Reflections.”

April, May, & June is produced by David Hunt Stafford. Michele Bernath is assistant director. Don Solosan is stage manager and Richard Carner is assistant stage manager.

Ultimately, despite some too obvious dialog and too frequent reliance on sitcom humor, April, May, & June ends up working. These loving, hating, resenting, forgiving sisters have the ring of truth about them, and by time they bid farewell to their childhood home, we’ve come to care about all three. April, May, & June may not be Chekhov, but a crowd-pleaser it is.