Sister Cities

This two-act drama of four estranged sisters-with different personalities, lifestyles, and fathers, reunited by the suicide of their terminally ill mother-was conceived and written by Circus Theatricals company member Colette Freedman. Its theme, "You are only as sick as your secrets," is familiar to every dysfunctional family. Artistic, self-indulgent matriarch Mary, portrayed with gusto by Jill Gascoine, married four different men and named her daughters after the location of their births. Mary focused her attentions on her men, spawning deep sibling rivalries now manifest in her bickering adult daughters.

This original "lab production" has many good points-solid dialogue and fine performances-and a few problems, mostly in the interplay between the daughters and the direction of Elise Robertson. Act I exposes the hidden resentments between the women. Carolina (Susan Ziegler), the eldest, is an uptight, by-the-book, workaholic lawyer with a failed marriage. Austin, the second-oldest, portrayed by Freedman, is a lesbian writer and the fulcrum of the action between the sisters, who moved back in with her mother to hide from the world. Dallas (Nickella Moschetti) is the "good girl," a married teacher who seems settled but hides a dark secret. Baltimore (Jade Sealey), the youngest, is the "lost child," who masquerades as a free spirit to hide her confusion. The conflicts among this quartet are serious, but the acrimony drags on too long and needs to move the action forward more quickly. In Act II, we meet the ALS-stricken Mary. But her monologue, of memories past, comes off more like a conversation with the audience, which just doesn't work. And that's a problem with direction. Still, this project is a glass, at least half-full, and worthwhile viewing.

Presented by Circus Theatricals at Circus Theatricals Studio Theatre at the Hayworth, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Sun. 7 p.m. May 7-Jul. 2. (323) 960-1054.