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LA Theater Review

The O'Conner Girls

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Katie Forgette's seriocomic 2003 play is a well-written slice of life, examining the state of a family at a crossroads: the Christmastime 1997 funeral of the patriarch, a taciturn man who was a closed book to his two daughters. Secrets long withheld to keep the peace come to the fore, making the weekend a time of reckoning for the sisters, their mother, and their aunt. Rather than contrivances of situation or plot, moments comedic and dramatic are natural outgrowths of the characters. Sisters Liz (Elizabeth Hall) and Martha (Leslie Williams) discover things about their parents that shake up lifelong opinions, as Forgette points up the marked differences between the World War II generation and its Baby Boom progeny.

Director Trina Klossing allows the script to unfold at a natural, unforced tempo. At the crux is the Liz-Martha relationship, a close, affectionate bond of occasional strife given realistic shadings of sisterly competition by the playwright. Liz is a slender knockout who as a teen eloped to California, where she has made a killing in real estate; she is on her third marriage and has avoided returning to the family homestead in Minnesota. Forgette shows us the self-doubts nagging Liz now that her key asset, her beauty, has begun to fade, Hall delivering the introspection beneath Liz's surface bravado. As kind, caring, and discreet as Liz is flashy, Martha never married, returning home to care for Dad after he suffered a pair of debilitating strokes. Williams' sensitive face, unshowy reactions, and quiet voice communicate the pain of a lifetime in the shadow of a sister living far away.

Anthony Yuro is gallant yet guarded as the girls' childhood neighbor, who became a successful doctor. Barbara Barkley's mechanical reading keeps us from warming to their mom. Ruth Kurisu is chatty and cheery though not especially eccentric as the girls' aunt.

Presented by and at the Orange Curtain Theatre, 31776 El Camino Real, San Juan Capistrano. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Apr. 13-May 5. (949) 412-3252. www.theorangecurtaintheatre.org.

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