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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Sisters Three

We three are not good apart. — Anne
sisters 3
Kara Hume and Dana DeRuyck. Photo by Rachel Rambaldi
The curtain fell on the world premiere of Jami Brandli's play Sisters Three,, and yours truly departed the VS Theatre with Mykola Leontovych's Carol of the Bells lodged ice-pick-like in my cranium. This happened in part because that seasonal favorite is indeed played at the conclusion of Brandli's play (a work that is about as un-yuletide-ish as could be despite being set during Christmas). Then again, given the choice between taking away Leontovych or Charlotte Bronte's jaw-dropping rant about two-headed bunnies and the ensuing apocalypse, I'll take the Bells any day of the week and twice on Christmas morning.

Since this play is a reimagining of the lives of the Bronte sisters set in present day America, perhaps the choice of end music may also be a nod to literary history. Before they were unmasked as Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, 19th century readers knew them as Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Thus Sisters Three is a carol of the Bells indeed. But not exactly a joyous one.

These twisted and tortured siblings afford us 90 minutes of high angst, seedy revelations, and ultimately a catharsis so over-the-top that Robyn Cohen's deranged Charlotte Bronte has clearly wandered in not from a technology-free commune, but from one of her (as yet) unwritten novels. Mrs. Bertha Rochester, I presume.

Before we arrive at that finale, the two younger Brontes try to keep life from crashing down on their heads. Kara Hume (playing Anne) and Dana DeRuyck (EJ, don't call me Emily) capably carry this satiric, but family-embracing opus. Director Annie McVey clearly intends this to be darkly comedic. And, yes, there are laughs, thanks largely to some funny dialog and to Hume's never-say-die Anne.

EJ is a math genius trying to work out an unsolvable equation having to do with prime numbers while also holding down a faculty position at a Florida university. Social media obsessed Anne Instagrams her entire existence and dreams of becoming an influencer par excellence.

The sisters are smarting over the untimely death of their brother Patrick a few months ago, an event that Anne missed, but one that drove recipe blogger Charlotte off to an island to live monastically. In between Instagramming and hashtagging, Anne is busily plotting Charlotte's rescue and has built a do-it-yourself canoe for that purpose. Said canoe is enormous and takes up about a third of Lex Gernon's stage. Anne is constantly stepping in, out and around it.

The morbid and flannel-wearing EJ, meanwhile, is fixated on her math and on the unrequited love she carries for her research assistant, Heather. Anne wants more details about Patrick's death, details that EJ won't cough up. As the tension mounts, Anne pulls out dolls and swords, dragging her sister back into the land of play from their childhood, with "Queen Acton" confronting "Queen Ellis."

In real life, of course, the Brontes led sheltered, rather boring lives, clandestinely produced a few classics of Western literature and died, one by one, of tuberculosis. The notion of transplanting them to contemporary America and giving them addictions and digital age problems is certainly inventive. Somewhat predictably, Brandli decides that they should be geniuses and highly dysfunctional geniuses at that.

This is palatable for about an hour. Hume, wearing a gaudy holiday sweater, looks like she's going to spontaneously combust every time her phone vibrates. Anne is being trolled by a nemesis and &emdash; "cheese and crackers!" &emdash; she's going to stay upbeat even if it destroys her.

DeRuyck's EJ foils her deftly with a nifty blend of harshness, ennui and mopeyness. Plus, the lady can handle a blade.

The arrival of Cohen's Charlotte takes an already-derailing play firmly off the tracks. Mad, bad Charlotte returns in need of &emdash; guess what! &emdash; a spin doctor and some sisterly affection, not necessarily in that order. "We got this," say the remaining two of the sisters three.

And maybe they do. We'll have to await the sequel. For the time being, Sisters Three is content to leave these Bells/Brontes with all of their cracks staring down oblivion with Christmas music chiming merrily in the background. Join the stare-down at your own risk.

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Sisters Three by Jami Brandli
Directed by Annie McVey

Cast: Kara Hume, Dana DeRuyck, Robyn Cohen,
Set Designer: Lex Gernon
Lighting Design: Joey Guthman
Sound Design: John Zalewski
Costume Design: Allison Dillard
Fight Director: Collin Bressie
Stage Manager: Karen Osborne
Plays through January 20, 2019 at VS Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles,
Running time: One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Evan Henerson

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