Thursday, September 25, 2014
It’s the third funeral in as many years for Olive, Marsha and Irene, sisters brought together by tragedy in “Three Sistahs,” a poignant tale of family relationships now playing at MetroStage Theatre.
Set in Washington, D.C., in 1969, the social turmoil following the assassinations of Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy engulfs the trio as they reunite at their childhood home after the funeral of their younger brother Andre, a victim of the Vietnam conflict.
“This was healing,” said Ayanna Gregory, daughter of Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory. “As I listened to people weeping in the audience, I thought ‘This is what we need.’ The show breaks color, social and economic lines and touches everyone’s heart.”
Written by Janet Pryce and Thomas W. Jones II with original music by William Hubbard, “Sistahs” is a gospel musical inspired by Anton Checkov’s “Three Sisters.” The show made its worldwide debut at MetroStage in 2002 and is now opening the theater’s 2014-2015 season.
Reprising her role as Olive, a single academic and the eldest of the three sisters, is the internationally acclaimed Bernardine Mitchell, a 2005 Helen Hayes Outstanding Lead Actress winner for her role in MetroStage’s production of “Mahalia.”
Mitchell is a powerful presence with an unassailable voice, soothing in her soulful ballads and soaring in hilarity in songs like “Basement Kind of Love”’ and “Barely Breathing.”
Roz White, another Helen Hayes award winner, is Marsha, the melancholy middle sister who has married and moved to Ohio, getting everything she thought she wanted yet pondering why her life is still so unsatisfying.
Rounding out the trio is MetroStage newcomer Ashley Ware Jenkins as Irene, the baby sister with a militant Angela Davis ’60s attitude.
The vocal performances of Mitchell, White and Jenkins are astounding, creating musical poetry from the lyrics and music of Jones and Hubbard. As director, Jones uses subtle but significant symbols, such as a triangular folded flag, or combat boots and duffle bag, to convey the heartbreak and tragic loss that hangs in the air throughout the show.
“Three Sistahs” is a compelling production that showcases the extraordinary voices of Mitchell, White and Jenkins, who take the audience on a journey that ultimately celebrates the unique and unbreakable bonds of family and sisterhood.
“Three Sistahs” is playing now through Nov. 2 at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal St. For ticket information, call 703-548-9044 or visit www.metrostage.org.