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Theater review: 'My Sister In This House' at Deaf West Theatre

April 26, 2010 |  1:00 pm
300.DWt - My Sister 3 In 1933, the savage murders of a French woman and her daughter by their live-in domestics gained international attention, inspiring Genet’s “The Maids,” Chabrol’s “La Ceremonie” and Wendy Kesselman’s award-winning 1980 play, “My Sister in This House.”

Now Kesselman has rewritten her drama for a striking new production by Deaf West. Here, convent-raised siblings Christine (Deanne Bray) and Lea (Amber Zion) are deaf, intensifying their working-class subjugation and isolation. (Their roles are voiced by Darrin Revitz and Lindsay Evans.) The two girls serve the status-obsessed Madame (Casey Kramer) and her bored daughter, Isabelle (Jennifer Losi), who dine and primp their days away in stultifying petit bourgeois style. (Tom Buderwitz’s two-tiered set is a study in claustrophobic elegance.)

Abused since birth, their intimacy resented by their employers, the sisters retreat into a world of fantasy. Bray and Zion achieve an intensely erotic symbiosis, enhanced by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s exquisite costumes and Leigh Allen’s evocative lighting. Even when the story becomes predictable, director Michael Unger and his cast create a rich world of ritual: serving dinner, getting ready for bed, card games, the Madame fingering the house with a white glove in a fervid search for dust. This may be the most embodied production I’ve ever seen in L.A.; unfortunately, some of the characterizations aren’t as satisfying. 

“My Sister” is an absorbing, often oppressive study of class and codependency. Or, as an audience member put it as we filed out of the theater, “Too much estrogen under one roof.”

– Charlotte Stoudt

“My Sister in This House,” Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 30. $25. Contact: (818) 762-2773 or  Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: Amber Zion, standing, and Deanne Bray. Photo credit: Theresa Halzle.