Poor relations

Somewhere a Sister

By Nadine Bernard
Directed by Nadine and Robert N. Bernard
Theater 22
Non-union production (closed)
Review by Adrienne Onofri

For many fledgling theater companies, mounting a play becomes a do-it-yourself proposition. The company founders have neither the finances nor the clout to hire an accomplished artist for every job, so they often take on many of the responsibilities themselves. This appears to have been the case with Somewhere a Sister, the inaugural venture of Northern Bay Productions. Northern Bay founder Nadine Bernard wrote, directed, produced and acted in the show, and her husband, Robert, co-directed, stage managed and ran the lights and sound.

This would have been a more auspicious debut had Nadine Bernard been able to concentrate solely on writing and leave the directing and other production duties to specialists in those fields. Bernard formed Northern Bay Productions to address the shortage of one-act plays for women, and this first show consisted of four playlets involving sisters. Bernard's decent scripts could have been improved with just a few rewrites and more astute directing. Somewhere a Sister did not make any profound, definitive statements about sisterhood but did offer some nice portraits of women at various stages in life.

The most enjoyable piece was ``Our Sister's Getting Married,'' a comedy composed of four scenes performed intermittently throughout the evening. Each scene showed two bridesmaids at different points in their sister's wedding--during the ceremony, being photographed, on the receiving line, catching the bouquet. It was a clever idea and showcased the comic talents of Ronit Feinglass and Lisa Michelle Moskin.

Feinglass also proved herself a gifted character actor in her other roles in Somewhere a Sister. She appeared in ``Big Sister, Little Sister,'' a satire on sorority life, and ``Sister or Not,'' a screwball comedy in which a woman doesn't recognize the visitor who claims to be her sister.

``Sister or Not'' was written as a farce, but the staging and timing were not sharp enough for the genre. The other play that needed a more exacting director was ``Gitel and Rivka,'' a dramatic piece about two Jewish sisters in Russia in the early 1900s. They are awaiting tickets to America from their brother, who has already emigrated. The dialogue and ambience seemed too contemporary, and the acting by Bernard and Rhonda Christou was stilted (although the two women looked like sisters).

The well-intentioned stories of Somewhere a Sister were about sisters more than sisterhood, but they did depict the volatility of the relationship through the cross-section of emotions represented. The absence of a polished hand behind the scenes was a bit too apparent, however. All the company had for a backdrop, for instance, was a black curtain, which resulted in awkward exits and entrances since actors had to feel around for openings in the curtain when they were supposed to simply be passing through a doorway. The Bernards tried to underscore the plays' themes with ``appropriate'' popular songs, but this effect was marred by the uneven sound quality. Interviews of women talking about their sisters also were aired during scene changes, and these too needed better amplification to be appreciated. The scene changes themselves took too long and should have been done in darkness, so the sight of actors moving furniture wouldn't distract the audience from listening to the music and interviews.

Box Score:
Writing 1
Directing 1
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1997 Adrienne Onofri

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