Fault Lines

Brett Bossard and Holly Adams.

The three sisters at the center of George Sapio's Fault Lines are haunted in different ways by the memory of their bitter, puritanical, and judgmental mother. The courses of their lives have been determined to a great extent by their relationships with her. All of them have a secret just as, it turns out, their mother did.

Sapio gets the mixture of resentment and love among the siblings just right, in spite of—he admits in the program—not having siblings himself. Director Camilla Schade has apparently instructed her players to read their lines straight. No one goes for a laugh in this comedy. Instead they speak to each other (and shout at each other) the way real siblings do. This realism keeps the play from drifting into late Neil Simon territory and is more consonant with the dramatic revelations that arrive in the second act.

Ginger (Holly Adams) and her husband Shawn (Brett Bossard) have been living with Ginger's younger sister Anastasia (Lauren Boehm) for six weeks. Shawn lost his job as a chef right before the 2008 economic meltdown and Ginger didn't have enough clients—she is a therapist—to keep up their mortgage payments. Anastasia is a successful forsenic pathologist, but remained at home with her mother until she died five years before and has remained in the house, obsessively preserving her mother's belongings. The eldest sister, Theresa (Maura Stephens) is a nun.

As the play opens Stazi's living room is a mess, plush toys, books and DVDs strewn across the floor, furniture cushions askew, and a pile of glass at stage left. There has been a break-in and Stazi cowered in the basement while the burglar made off with the television and DVD player. This event allows you to see the status quo—soon to be disrupted—among the characters.

Shawn is solicitous and kind to Stazi. Ginger plays the role of the therapist more than older sister. In the second scene, when Theresa arrives, she is unsympathetic and essentially tells Stazi to get hold of herself. Theresa is an oddly (and amusingly) profane nun and not particularly sisterly toward Stazi.

Both Shawn and Stazi are seen frantically searching for something. Theresa, as she is putting way the DVDs, finds a bag of pornographic DVDs, which upsets her. Shawn and Ginger, while moving Theresa's handbag, discover that one of the outside pockets is full of condoms.

Eventually, when Theresa and Ginger are moving the sofa “back where it is supposed to be” they discover a can labelled “Norwegian cardamom.” They have a good laugh over this, as they gave a set of “fake spices” to their mother years ago because she was such a bad cook, and she hadn't gotten the joke. This can and its contents turns out to be what both Stazi and Shawn have been searching for, but for quite different reasons.

Sapio has managed to make the sisters quite distinct personalities, but still believeably related. Boehm plays Stazi as frequently either at or over the edge of hysteria. She makes Stazi's explosions of radical self-effacement funny and sad at the same time. Adams nicely presents Gingers oscillation between upbeat therapeutic mode and her sharper, sardonic real self. Stephens reins in Theresa's venom, making her blunt pronouncements almost off-hand rather than aggressive. In a play about women, Shawn isn't given much to do, but Bossard manages well his slide from good guy to disappointing guy.

Deep in the heart of the second act the father is finally mentioned and his absence turns out to be the prime mover of all that unfolds. In contrast, the mother is spoken of so often she is almost present. Theresa is the girl who fulfilled her mother's dreams. Ginger is the girl who rebelled and attempted to be the complete opposite of her mother. Stazi is the girl who tried to please her mother by being successful and loyal, neither of which her mother appreciated.

There is a lot in the Wolf's Mouth Theater Company's first full length play, and it unfolds gracefully. All surprises are believeable. All the characters behave like real people. In the end everything has changed, because everyone has admitted to what they have been hiding for so long.

Performances of Fault Lines are at Fall Creek Studio, 1201 N. Tioga St. at 7:30 p.m. on March 15, 16, 21, 22, 23. Pay at the door in cash or through the Ticket Center, 171 The Commons, Ithaca. Mon. – Thurs., 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Fri. – Sat., 11 a.m. - 7:30 p.m; 273.4497. $12 for adults and $9 for students and seniors.

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