Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rising Action Theatre: The Killing of Sister George (reviews)

Rising Action Theatre opened its production of The Killing of Sister George on January 14, 2011.
A scathing examination of the public and private lives of so-called "cultural icons". "Sister George" is a beloved character on a popular BBC soap opera, a cheerful nurse who bicycles about the countryside singing hymns and doing good. In private life, June Buckridge the actress, is a swaggering, foul-mouthed, alcoholic lesbian in a long-term relationship with waifish Alice "Childie" McNaught. Due to low ratings, cut-backs and June's own bad behavior, the BBC decides to "kill Sister George" on the series. A visit from Miss Mercy Croft, a no-nonsense network executive bearing the bad news sends George into meltdown, which results in "Childie's" retreat to the arms of Mercy. A great success in London and New York.

Jane Kelly directed a cast that included Janet Weakly, Andi Maria Morrow, Merry Jo Cortada and Celia Myers.

Mary Damiano reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
The lesbian relationship in The Killing of Sister George may have had some shock value when it was written nearly 50 years ago, but society has thankfully progressed enough that any controversy has now devolved into quaintness. And once the perceived luridness has fallen away, what’s left is a rather conventional and pointless story of a pathetic woman who can’t adjust to losing her job.
As June/George, Weakly, looking like a haggard Maggie Smith, disappears into the character, inhabiting June’s skin completely. Cortada, who plays officious Mercy, is most entertaining when she’s tossing sidelong leers in Alice’s direction. Morrow’s performance is genuine and she adds some depth to Alice. As a gypsy woman who lives downstairs, Clelia Myers is entertaining but out of place, looking more like she wandered in from a production of Blithe Spirit.
Director Jane Kelly fails to infuse the production with any energy or pacing, allowing it to limp sluggishly along to its conclusion. Perhaps if the intermissions had been condensed into two blackouts, or if the histrionics had been converted to camp, or if the soap opera story had been played with more of a knowing wink to the audience, then Kelly could have salvaged the play into something resembling entertainment. But none of that happened, so what is left is a boring production of a dated, mediocre play.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Sun-Sentinel:'s a patchwork of performances from the four-woman cast stretching over a length of two and a half hours in three acts and two intermissions. As strong as an actor that Weakly is, she never even pauses to enjoy her triumphs over Alice, never savors the dynamics. Clelia Myers as a fortune-telling Gypsy neighbor Madame Xenia adds some much-needed laughs, but her performance — fine as it is — doesn't seem to be totally melded into this play. The same can be said of the set and the costumes.
As directed by Jane Kelly, The Killing of Sister George is a hypnotic character study of power struggles and lesbian stereotypes with a sort of tacked-on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf reveal … that unfortunately seems anti-climactic after such marathon pacing.
The Rising Action Theatre production of The Killing of Sister George plays at the Sunshine Cathederal through February 13, 2011.

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