I'm sure you're all tired of me talking about plays about three sisters (my dream has long been to convince somebody to do Three Sisters, King Lear and Crimes of the Heart in repertory) but it isn't my fault these three-sister plays keep popping up. Illinois Wesleyan just did The Memory of Water, Shelagh Stevenson's take on the multi-sib theme, and now Urbana's Station Theatre is offering Lee Blessing's Independence. Yep. Three sisters in that one, too.
Blessing's play was a Humana Festival play in 1984, and it's certainly been well-produced and well-regarded ever since, as it kicks around sisterhood, responsibility, family ties and personal independence. Two of the three Briggs sisters -- Jo and Sherry -- have stayed home in Independence, Iowa, where Jo takes care of their unstable mother and Sherry, the wild child, is still in high school. As the play opens, Jo has called Kess, the oldest, now a professor in Minnesota, back home to decide what's to be done with the huge problem called Mom.
But Kess's visit brings up all kinds of old wounds, with unhappiness, unpleasant revelations and conflicting interests at every turn. Can you be part of a family and do what you want? Or do you have to give in and be what the others need you to be? Is there ever a time you can neatly cut those family ties and walk away?
I'm not sure there are answers to Blessing's questions, but the issues are certainly familiar to anyone who's ever made it through a Thanksgiving dinner with different generations and different personalities represented at the table.
Deb Richardson directs this Independence for the Station Theatre, with Nancy Keener as the mother from hell and Malia Andrus, Martha Mills and Jessa Thomas as her three very different daughters. The Station production opens next Thursday, November 29, with performances through December 15. All performances are at 8 pm.