Theatre Mirror Reviews - "My Sister in This House"

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entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

"My Sister in This House"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Providence College's current show is "My Sister in This House" by Wendy Kesselman. The show takes place in 1933 and is based on an historical incident which occurred in Les Mans, France. The story is about two sisters who are strictly trained to be exceptional domestic servants and they work for Madame Danzard and her unmarried daughter, Isabel. The social expectations and insular existence of the household lead to a complex dependency, and eventually, to a tragedy of hatred and brutality. There is no communication between employers and servants, leading to misunderstandings among these four lonely women in this highly charged drama. Director Mary Farrell casts her four actresses perfectly in this examination of psychosexual relationships.

Mary blocks the show wonderfully, using a video camera to zoom in on the actresses so the audience can see their reactions close up. She has the cast get into the skin of these women, enabling them to achieve their topnotch portrayals. The raked set by Dan Bilodeau shows the different playing areas of the show including living room, dining room, kitchen, staircase and bedroom. The 1930's costumes are by David Costa-Cabral who pays attention to the smallest details including authentic shoes, dresses and hats while the lighting design by Katherine Abernathy lends itself to the eeriness of the tale as does the sound design by Chris Warren including the dripping water faucet. Caitlin Elizabeth Doyle as the older sister Christine is fantastic. Her acting is chilling in this role as she captures the tortured soul of a mistreated girl whom her mother gives away to the nuns because she isn't pretty enough. Her misguided and bizarre relationship with her younger sister comes through in her actions from being strict with her to giving into her every whim. Jill Palmer also delivers the goods as the younger sister, Lea who can't live up to the high standards set by her sister as a maid but who is her mother's favorite child. Katie Hughes is excellent as Mme Danzard who rules her home with a hand of iron. She praises her maids to her daughter at first but as time goes by she keeps finding fault with everything they do. (Her white glove scene in inspecting the furniture lightens the play up in the first act.) Lisa D'Alessandro plays the gawky, unwed daughter, Isabel beautifully. She steals candy while her mother isn't looking and tries to befriend Lea while her mother isn't around, trying to break the servant/mistress barrier. Not wanting to give away too much of the plot of the show, be sure to catch this well acted drama before it ends. It shows off the talent of college age actresses perfectly.

"My Sister in This House" (17 - 26 February)
Providence College, 549 River Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401) 865-2218

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide