Were it not for its undercurrent of mixed cultural identities, Monica Yudovich's Hermanas would seem like nothing more than a perfectly amiable pilot for a sitcom. However, this play centering on two sisters -- Jewish Latinas -- rises above its snappy zingers and clichéd situations to explore how its characters from varied backgrounds navigate their worlds.
The sisters are neurotic Lisette (Yudovich), who's alternately delighted and chagrined that she's broken up with her malapropism-spewing, product-buying, ultramacho boyfriend Eduardo (Paolo Andino), and Claudia (Adriana Gaviria), the older of the two and something of a sexually and intellectually adventurous wild girl. It's a classic odd-couple setup: Claudia unexpectedly shows up from New York on Lisette's Texas doorstep and moves in. Can these two very different individuals peaceably cohabitate?
Yudovich populates the play with terrific comic foils, none of whom behave completely as their backgrounds might indicate. Most delightful is the girls' mom, Telma, who, as played by Kathryn Kates, brings to mind Rita Moreno crossed with Renée Taylor.
Also on hand is Lisette's ex-roommate Angie (Bridget Moloney), a good ol' girl who has demure Southern belle aspirations but shrewishly emasculates her unseen Latino boyfriend. Living across the hall is a perfect couple: the perpetually perky, mountain-scaling linguist and physician Danny (Ryan Duncan) and fashion designer and psychiatrist Gabriela (Denise Quiñones).
With this disparate group of characters in place, Yudovich sets in motion some expected (and some pleasantly unexpected) romantic and comedic plot lines. While theatregoers will appreciate much of what Yudovich has contrived for the characters, some of the comedy fails to land fully in director Claudia Zelevansky's somewhat scattered staging of this episodic play, which feels as if it has been written to allow for commercial interruptions.
Despite this, Hermanas tickles as Lisette and Claudia work to resolve the burning question "Who am I?"
Presented by Changuitos Productions and Michael Cassara Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival
at Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St., NYC.
Aug. 12-27. Remaining performances: Fri., Aug. 25, 10 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 27, noon.
(212) 279-4488 or www.fringenyc.org.
Casting by Michael Cassara Casting.