As anyone from a large family can attest, it's a wonder how so many wildly different individuals can spring from the same genetic pool.
In Daniel MacIvor's "Marion Bridge," a guest production at Son of Semele theater, three sisters are radically distinctive characters written with brilliant specificity.
Agnes (Amy DeBourget) is a failed actress from Toronto who has spent the better part of 20 years in an alcoholic stupor. Theresa (Carolyn Reese Crotty) is a farmer and nun who does her best to hide the erosion of her faith. Louise (Sarah Boughton) is an admittedly "strange" young woman who has never wandered far from home but whose naif persona conceals surprising depths.
The three have returned to Cape Breton, their Canadian island home, to be with their (offstage) dying mother during her final days. Initially, the atmosphere simmers with old resentments as these long-estranged sisters struggle to find common ground while awaiting the inevitable. The mood thickens as Agnes seeks out the daughter she was forced to give up when she was just a girl — a crushing loss that continues to define her life.
It's a simple premise that offers little in the way of plot. However, MacIvor's lovely, deeply humanistic comedy-drama, which was made into a film in 2002, builds inevitably toward the transcendent.
This is a well cast production, and director Don Boughton (father of Sarah) augments the play's comic opportunities while wisely keeping its emotionalism on a slow simmer, only occasionally allowing it to boil into authentic, wrenching pain.
Sarah Boughton is strong as the boyish Louise, whose unvarnished simplicity effectively contrasts with the faux sophistication of DeBourget's emotionally battered Agnes. Ironically named, Crotty's beautifully realized Theresa is not the mystic her name implies but a matter-of-fact saint, a woman of the earth whose shining goodness is the metaphoric "bridge" that may link this fractured family at last.
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Where: Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 24; also 7 p.m. Monday
Info: (213) 351-3507, www.sonofsemele.org
Running time: 2 hours
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