True North Cultural Arts, located in Sheffield Lake, OH has a unique program within its theatrical walls. Throughout the year, they commission plays to be written to highlight and provide education as to the history of Lorain County. Kelly Boyer Sagert took on the latest task of exploring the Burrell Sisters, who were an important representative family during a time of the 20's, the Great Depression, World War II and the country's eventual recovery. Although laden with historical facts, Director Brian Bowers chooses to focus on the family dynamics. Creating an evening of relationships that tell how a family survives during tested sisterhood and surviving the economics of life challenges. The evening moves smoothly. Bowers has created an interesting world out of the playwrights vision.
At the helm of the evening is Tyson Douglas Rand, who portrays Ken Burrell, a brother who mystically guides us through the lives of his family with touching antidotes and the ability to crack a joke when needed. He creates a beautiful connection with the audience that sets the tone of Prairie Home Companion-esque. He hardly ever leaves the stage, so he deserves a well earned adult soda. The women of this play remind me that it could be called the Desperate Housewives of Lorain County. Each sister bringing her own presence and a mother that could beat up Tevye in a street fight. Marilyn Forster plays matriarch Tempe Burrell with charm and a clear understanding of what to tell and not to tell her daughters. Tempe holds her own and gives a good insight to raising her family in these trying times. The three sisters are typical of family dynamics, where along the way it always seems to be an interchangeable two versus one. It is the circle of life, sister style. Eleanor Burrell comes across of the most stoic of the group, and defines herself with a regal sense of serenity that permeates her performance. Virginia Burrell is played with a spunky resolve by Bernadette Hisey. She is most animated of the sisters and makes the most out of the physical shtick. Her Virginia is the most balanced of the sisters. And then there is Doris Burrell, who cracked me up a lot. Played by Kathie Dice with an Annie Oakley charm, and a woman I would not like to have to play Red Rover with because I would never cross over if she was on the other side. Doris goes through the biggest personal heartbreak of the piece, and conveys the journey of what we all face sometimes with directness. Rounding out the cast are Anne Chriszt, playing her character Lillian Brown with bubbling energy and a spot on performance. Jenny Erbs who brings the irish spitfire Rose O'Reilly to life and definitely knows what she wants and how to get it.
And finally Dean Stamatis, playing Marty Schilling. Dean brings a common man persona to the role and helps us connect with his dream, but with a grounded resolve, and when to say "Ok, you're right"
Written by Kelly Boyer Sagert
Directed by Brian Bowers
Stage Manager Dena Warmuth
Costume Design Luke Scattergood
Set and Lighting Design Keith Newman
Sound Design Stan Kozak
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