Review: Sister, Ovalhouse

Microphones, smoke machines, and recorded singing have Sister feeling like a hazy dream in this visceral tale of familial bonds. As the title suggests, the play explores sisterly ties and what those mean through three real life tales of sisters examining how their relationships have evolved over time and what they mean to each other. The text itself is taken verbatim from the stories these women told, but broken up, sung, and sewn back together in such a way to create something completely new.

Daisy Brown and Nia Coleman alternate between the different sisters highlighted in this piece. They easily draw in the audience with warm smiles and a teensy bit of bashfulness that speaks to how the play’s subjects must have felt when originally being interviewed for these stories. The anguish, worry, and anger the two bring to the table later during the show is just as believable and relatable as well, and it’s quite easy to feel connected to these two and believe the words they’re speaking are their own. Though, as far as characters go, it would be absolutely remiss not to mention the sound design in Sister.

Almost a character in itself, the sound is what truly makes this play unique and heartbreakingly beautiful, dragging it from real and raw to a blurred vision with ease. Amplified foley work of tea being poured, fire crackling, and more brings you intimately into moments, having you experiencing them rather than just observing. The composer, Alex Groves, must be commended for the surreal and otherworldly songs he had Brown and Coleman sing and create on stage as they recorded and replayed their stunning voices in front of us. These gorgeous creations were utterly gorgeous and seemed to deftly convey that sometime raw emotion is the most powerful and most important part of a memory left, especially when it comes to family.

Undeniably beautiful and featuring some amazing stories, Sister did leave me wondering what message it meant to convey to the audience about these specific ties that bind. It showcased these stories in a stunningly creative way, however I left knowing little more than I had before: that each unique family rejoices and suffers in its own way. What I had expected was an attempt to showcase what makes the bonds between sisters different from other familial ties, or least for Sister to ask whether they are different at all. Still, it is a show that puts some very different stories of different families on display, highlighting them with beautiful and sometimes surreal design, directing, and performances.

Sister is playing Ovalhouse until September 10. 

Photo: Ludovic Des Cognets