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The Donahue Sisters fun and lively with powerful twist

LunaSea Theatre celebrates its 10th anniversary of plays involving women with a lushly produced and finely acted remount of its first hit production of Geraldine Aron's Irish black comedy The Donahue Sisters at The Waiting Room in Halifax through Saturday.
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LunaSea Theatre celebrates its 10th anniversary with a remount of the crazy, Irish one-act play The Donahue Sisters.

“We decided to give it the production it deserves,“ director and LunaSea Theatre co-founder Martha Irving said at a packed weekend matinee audience in Halifax's cosy Waiting Room theatre.

Ten years ago, The Donahue Sisters had a stellar cast and a $50 budget. Now it has a stellar cast and a budget for lush lighting, a highly detailed set and a complete sound design.

This black comedy, starring Geneviève Steele, Francine Deschepper and Ryanne Chisholm, is a lively and fun story with a powerful twist at the end.

It opens with three middle-aged sisters at a tiny red table in the attic pouring tea from their child's tea set. The sisters only gather periodically for family emergencies and this time their father is dying.

Deschepper plays with wonderful zest and a laugh to lift the rooftop the wild sister who changed her name, is a successful writer of novels that her sisters consider “smutty” and is married to an artist in New York.

Steele gives intensity and a dreamy restlessness to the eldest sister, who has a sharp moral sense, a family of four and trouble at home, while Chisholm admirably and in strong detail plays the youngest, the innocent, homespun Annie, whose marriage has its own peculiarities.

The piercing sisterly back-biting and telling of everyday secrets is full of fun until the three ritualistically reveal a secret trauma from their childhood.

Playful and smart in its literary construction, this play is on a more serious level about women who have lost their power and who need to reassert control.

Author Geraldine Aron explores innocence and experience, girlishness and maturity, presented visually in the delicate, sleeveless white nightgowns the women wear.

They seem like fairy creatures from Victorian and Edwardian times until they don their modern housecoats and slippers.

Ingrid Risk's lighting design, its opening fanciful pinks and greens and later hot whites, suits the degrees of enchantment and harsh reality in this story. Katrin Whitehead's set has extraordinary detail with hanging peaked, wooden beams, themselves draped in hanging white cloths for a ghostly effect, and a rear white stone wall with a window of changing light.

The white cloths refer to the Irish saint Brigid in a production influenced by Druidic myth. The Irish draw on Brigid's healing powers when they tie white cloths to trees with healing wishes attached. 

Director Irving, working with assistant director and movement coach Emily Pettet, goes for an intense, firecracker production with great physical and verbal detail in the acting. Sound design by Donnie Walls adds to the mystery and heightens key moments.

The Donahue Sisters runs at one hour in length Tuesday through Saturday, 8 p.m., with a matinee Saturday, 2 p.m,. at The Waiting Room, 6040 Almon St. (former Acadian Lines bus station), Halifax. Tickets are $20 at the door or online at tickethalifax.com. PWYC tickets are at the door.

To further celebrate LunaSea's 10th anniversary, Bette MacDonald and Maynard Morrison present an evening of comedy and music April 10, 7:30 p.m., Spatz Theatre, with guests Betty Belmore and Bill Stephenson, Ian Sherwood, Megan McDowell, Charlotte MacDonald and the LunaSea ladies. Tickets are also at tickethalifax.com.

 



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