Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Horizon Theatre reunites 'Three Sistahs'

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2011 at 1:49 PM

SISTAH ACT: Bernardine Mitchell, Crystal Fox and Dorothy Bell (from the 2006 production)
Nearly every summer Horizon Theatre collaborates with writer/director/performer Thomas W. Jones for an African-American-themed production. This year, Horizon reprises Jones' Three Sistahs, in which a trio of siblings gather for a funeral during the political turbulence of 1969. Bernardine Mitchell and Crystal Fox return to the musical drama, inspired by Chekhov's Three Sisters, and which I reviewed in 2005:

Intoning the low, mournful, gospel-style tones of "In My Father's House," the three sisters enter in black mourning dresses. Proud but lonely college professor Olive; boozing, bored, bourgeois Marsha; and idealistic, college-age Irene (Dorothy Bell) turn out to be a study in contrasts despite their shared tragedy and parentage. The story takes place in 1969, and with Andre a casualty of the Vietnam War and Irene on the front lines of the black-power movement, social issues sit comfortably with the domestic disagreements.

Director Thomas W. Jones wrote the lyrics and book (based on a story by Janet Pryce), with William Hubbard providing compositions, and they provide persuasive samples of period-appropriate jazz, rock, gospel and R&B stylists. The more smoothly the songs integrate into the conversations, the higher the play soars, especially in a casual, slumber-party-style sequence in Act One when the women reminisce about their first kisses and other experiences with the opposite sex. The tunes cleverly emulate the girl-group combos of the 1950s and '60s, with the actresses playfully emulating the hand gestures of the Supremes and the like.

Three Sistahs. July 15-Aug. 28. Horizon Theatre, 1083 Austin Ave. Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. 404-584-7450. www.horizontheatre.com.

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