The Killing of Sister George

By Frank Marcus
Directed by Jimmy Bohr
The Willow Cabin Theatre Company
Theatre Row Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Judd Hollander

The show's press release notes this is the first time the play has been revived since 1983. It's hard to understand why. With its biting plot, well-drawn characters and terribly depressing (yet all-too-true-to-life) ending, The Killing of Sister George offers up a leading role that any actress would die for.

It is 1965. Actress June Buckridge enjoys a successful career as the beloved ``Sister George'' on the popular radio serial ``Applehurst.'' In actuality, June is a hard-drinking, cigar-smoking lesbian with severe insecurities, a huge ego and a perverse dominant streak. She acts out the last by heaping endless insults and humiliations upon her partner, Alice (Tasha Lawrence).

June's lifestyle comes crashing down when Mrs. Mercy Croft (Fiona Davis), from the BBC, announces that, in order to stem ``Applehurst'''s faltering ratings, Sister George will be killed off. While June angrily accepts this after much protestation, she has become so immersed in the character (to the point of insisting on being called ``George'') she finds she cannot give it up. Making matters worse is that the only job offer she receives is to play a cow on a children's program. June's inability to adapt results in the loss of all she holds dear.

Maria Radman was dead on as the title character, going from a ``star'' with Norma Desmond tendencies to a sad, lonely caricature of a cow ``mooing'' on stage in a desperate need to be loved. This, in turn, causes the audience to feel alternately bemusement, disgust, pity, and sympathy for the character. Tasha Lawrence was fine in the thankless role of the childlike Alice, while Fiona Davis all but stole the show as the prim and proper executive who's got her own plans for Alice -- which have nothing to do with business. Christine Radman nicely provided comic relief as psychic Madame Xenia. Jimmy Bohr's direction and James Horvath's choreography kept the action going at a brisk clip, while William F. Moser's set helped evoke the proper feelings of time and place. (The entire play takes place in June's London flat.)

There were also several amusing radio broadcasts (using the voices of Radman, Kenneth Favre, Zachary Ansley, and Ken Forman) depicting the actual ``killing'' of Sister George and subsequent ``memorial broadcast.'' (The audience is led to believe ``Sister George'''s death led to a public involvement equal to Dallas's ``Who Shot J.R.?'')

The most sobering part of the play is the ending, where, by the final curtain, all the characters have entered new stages in life, but none have changed inside.

Additional credits: costume design, Mary Nemecek Peterson; lighting design, Howard Werner; dialect coaching, Ruth Moore.

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 1
Costumes 1
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Judd Hollander

Return to Home Page