“Sisters, Sisters, There were never such devoted sisters,” warbled Rosemary Clooney and Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas. (Yes, Clooney was the stand-in singing voice for Vera-Ellen for that number in the 1954 film.)
But what if siblings are not so devoted to each other? What if their lives have taken too many wrong turns, individually, and their relationships devolve into clashes.
This, my friends, is just a taste of where we find three sisters as they have been forced by circumstances to move in together and attempt to make lemonade out of some very bitter fruit.
But it also makes for some outlandish comedy, as penned by playwright Amy Dellagiarino in The Value of Moscow, now onstage at Artspace in Herndon, courtesy of Dark Horse Theatre Company.
The Value of Moscow
closes April 27, 2019
Details and tickets
Dellagiarino packs a lot of dialogue, put-downs, and nearly absurdist action into the 80 minute running time. Dellagiarino’s sharp wit is fully evident throughout this relatively new play. I wish I could report the play elicited a stream of laughter, however. Perhaps it was due to the small but appreciative audience on a recent Sunday afternoon, but I found myself laughing out loud only a handful of times.
Having a relatively brief running time, the situation-comedy set-up solidifies quickly. The three adult-aged sisters come together to rent an apartment. Notice I said “adult-aged.” These ladies sometimes act anything but grown-up. Each one of the siblings has a distinctive character flaw and their own reason for moving in. Emily (Sarah Akers) is a dried up author who claims her husband “needs space.” She’s also the resident no-nonsense-type with the acid tongue. First-grade teacher Rose (Jessie Burns) has co-dependency issues and is a bit of an airhead. Rounding out the trio is Clara (Catherine Gilbert) who is escaping a toxic boyfriend and is recovering from an attempted suicide.
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The playwright gives each sister moments to assert her personality and to trade barbs with her siblings. The cast handles these prickly exchanges with skillful timing and a natural delivery. With Dellagiarino’s nod to Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Emily, Rose and Clara also talk of their “Moscow,” the ultimate goal where they could resolve their various issues and find a peace of happiness.
But that would be too easy and this play only winks at Chekhov, throwing these sisters into a life or death situation that grows exponentially more ludicrous very quickly. Let’s just say they would have been better off going hungry than ordering pizza during a blizzard. Without revealing too much else, Andrew Farms and Ricardo Padilla make the most of their cameo appearances, holding their own with the three sisters.
Director Natasha Parnian keeps the action hopping along, except for a few instances when the energy sagged during a couple of the more serious scenes. Once the action really kicks off with a bang, I was on the edge of my seat for the remainder of the play.
The Value of Moscow by Amy Dellagiarino . Directed and designed by Natasha Parnian . Featuring: Sarah Akers, Jessie Burns, Catharine Gilbert, Andrew Farms, and Ricardo Padilla . Stage manager Matt Thomas . Produced by Dark Horse Theatre Company . Reviewed by Jeff Walker.