Review: Fine Acting Not Enough For MY SISTER

By: Jan. 18, 2016

MY SISTER/by Janet Schlapkohl/directed by Ron Sossi & Paul David Story/Odyssey Theatre/thru March 13, 2016

Playwright Janet Schlapkohl's MY SISTER has the good fortune of having two fine actresses, identical twins Elizabeth Hinkler and Emily Hinkler, in her two-character play. Easy to see why these two won the Hollywood Fringe Festival's Best Acting award in these same roles last year.

Set in Berlin at the time Hitler takes power, two sisters Madga and Matilde struggle to makes ends meet with Madga mopping hospital wards and cerebral palsy-afflicted Matilde stuck at home biding her time writing a cabaret act for her sister.

Both actresses' very fine and effectively convincing in bringing out the flaws of their respective characters. Emily as Madga, the untalented, unfunny lounge singer and Elizabeth as Matilde, the handicapped, stay-at-home writer of Madga's bad jokes. Not until much later into the play (singing a German folk song) does Emily get to show off her melodious vocal chops. And not until the curtain call does Elizabeth appear affliction-free. The sisters' emotions strong, arguments intense, and their sisterly love quite evident. Never once do you doubt that Madga would abandon the sister completely dependent on her.

Interesting that Madga has the same German accent in only her opening and closing scene that Matilde maintains throughout.

Ron Sossi & Paul David Story co-directed this piece that may be hard to watch for those not accustomed to witnessing a caretaker and her charge battle wits for a 95-minute stretch. Nice detailed set by Pete Hickok of the poor living room/dining room space of the sisters. Able assist from pianist/musical director Barbara Rottman in Madga's attempts at entertaining. Hopefully opening night lighting miscues and low-lighting will be remedied for future performances.