THE BASICS: This domestic drama by Catherine Hayes is the very first production of the new Red Thread Theatre, in residence at the New Phoenix. Performances Thursday-Saturday nights, through February 27th. The show runs about 75 minutes, with no intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: England, present day. Sisters Jean and Rita share a final hour with their moribund mother in her home. Jean, who lives with Mom, and is her round-the-clock caretaker, is hoping to be “spelled off” for a bit, but the newly arrived Rita is uncomfortable in the situation, and eager to return to her family out-of-town. Accusation and recrimination are the orders of the day, and there’s more than enough guilt to go around. Playwright Hayes treats us to an hour of Sibling Fireworks, with Mom stirring up the pot one last time on her way out the door…
THE CAST: It’s the strong point of the show. Eileen Dugan plays Jean, the hard-bitten, slovenly daughter who got stuck, and who’s become the poster child for Curdled Caregiving. Josephine Hogan is Rita, the tonier, out-of-town sib who is preoccupied with her young brood, but remains the model of Distant Concern. Both women are adept in their roles, and help this little slice-of-life drama ring true. Kathleen Betsko Yale has the thankless role of the semi-comatose mother, but she does get to spew a little vitriol before the curtain is rung down.
PRODUCTION VALUES: The play is properly intimate on the New Phoenix stage. The set, uncredited, is quite simple, but effective. The stage is nicely lit by Kurt Schneiderman. Kelli Bocock-Natale manages to get her actors moving around a bit, staving off what could have been a very static theater experience. She gets straightforward, effective performances from the small cast.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This domestic drama is limited in scope, but tackles familiar issues in a thoughtful manner, and will leave most playgoers with something to discuss on the way home. Sadly, a number of the barbs that are slung here fall flat; oh, for a second dose of leavening humor! One word of warning: if you’ve recently lost a parent or are in the process of losing one, you may wish to steer clear of SKIRMISHES, as it will have you reliving your pain. All in all, a very creditable start for Red Thread Theatre. Rounding up just a little, I’ll give this one…