Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Alder, 241-1278, Tues-Thurs 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm & 7 pm, $15-$30
Midway through Two Sisters and a Piano, an idea for the opening line of the forthcoming review popped into my head: "ZZZZZZZZ." Of course I immediately chastised myself for conceiving of such an immature, useless notion, rubbed the tiredness out of my eyes and refocused. And gradually, Piano started picking it up a little, though even then this study of political oppression in Cuba was S-L-O-W going.
Nilo Cruz's stylized, lyrical script follows the plight of two sisters who have been imprisoned in their own house as a result of speaking out against Castro's regime. The older sister, Maria Celia (Quigley Provost-Landrum), has written inflammatory literature, while younger sister, Sofia (Andrea White), seems more a victim of circumstance. Both women pine away--Maria for her husband, Sofia for romance in general. Their sexless, monotonous routine is alleviated regularly by one of the lieutenants assigned to guard their house, Portuondo (Enrique M. Arias). Portuondo from the get-go is a little too friendly and helpful, and it quickly becomes apparent he is in love with Maria. Their budding romance compromises all involved.
ART's production benefits from excellent casting. Provost-Landrum is tall and striking-looking, with a deep, resonant voice that adds great dignity to her portrayal of the brilliant Maria. The sexy, vivacious, and much younger-seeming White is the more immediately attractive of the two, but it isn't hard to see why Lieutenant Portuondo prefers Maria. These actors carry Cruz's listless script on higher shoulders than it deserves. Cruz wastes a potentially fascinating premise by filtering it through predictable romantic meandering. If he insisted on dwelling in a love story (as opposed to the potentially fascinating dynamic between two sisters forced to live with each other in a tiny house, indefinitely, under awful, oppressive circumstances) he should have stuck with the flirtatious threads between White's Sofia and Andrew Harris' delightfully neurotic Victor, a piano tuner who arrives one afternoon to do some repairs. The chemistry between these two characters is bright and funny, dying out like a falling star when Harris exits, leaving only the memory of its fiery trail across a cloudy sky. JUSTIN SANDERS