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LA Theater Review

Sister Cities

A quartet of half-sisters meet up at the home of their recently — as in only hours before — deceased mother. Mom, who had been suffering the ravages of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), is lying in the bathtub, having committed suicide. To playwright Colette Freedman's credit, each of her characters, named for the location of their births, offers a distinct glimpse into the human condition. And the actors portraying them are marvelous as they work with Freedman's witty, rapid-fire dialogue.

Carolina is a rigidly successful, Seattle-based attorney, played by Royana Black, who captures perfectly Carolina's frustration at not being able to assert control over what has transpired. Bettina Adger plays Austin, a lesbian author. This character trait isn't highlighted much during the play, so it feels a bit concocted, as if to make Austin "different." No matter, though, because Adger is remarkable, giving Austin an edgy defensiveness, the result of being the child who aided Mom during her physical decline.

Dallas, played by Darcy Martin, is a married, though childless, private-school teacher whose composure relies on outward perfection. Still, everyone has a skeleton in her closet, and Dallas is no different. Martin provides the show with a necessary subtlety as she slowly reveals her character's inner fears and needs. College student Baltimore is played with unabashed gusto by Jen Eldridge. Baltimore's idealism will save the world, or so she thinks. In Eldridge's performance we see youthful exuberance evolve into young adulthood; the sister realizes that at some point everyone must grow up.

A second-act flashback scene introduces us to matriarch Mary, who, despite her rather unconventional lifestyle, reared these girls the best that she could. In relaying Mary's dreams and aspirations, Bibi Tinsley gives us a poignantly portrayed view into the slow decay caused by ALS.

The uncredited set is a quaint, pistachio-colored living room. It's an excellent offset to the secrets that eventually come out in the play. Ten percent of the production's proceeds go to ALS Los Angeles.

Presented by Alliance Repertory Company at Alexia Robinson Studio, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Apr. 20-May 26. (800) 595-4849. www.alliancerepertory.com.

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