The Sister is a curious affair that both baffles and intrigues. Married couple Bob and Leanne let Colleen, Leanne’s sister, live with them. Colleen is denigrated and abused by the couple, and made to look after a mysterious “machine”. She is solaced only by her imagination, a fact that is viewed with great suspicion by her family.
The main set is a framework of a room; the back wall is in the process of being decorated, while the sides and the front is just the skeletal frame. The seats for the audience are clustered around this set, creating the impression that you are peering into a cell or cage, invited to witness the drama within.
The beginning of Eric John Meyer’s play sees Bob and Leanne decorating the room. Their friend, Terry, arrives, and forces Colleen to entertain them all. She does so by creating shadow puppets to tell the story of a dog and a bird; the story is a wonderful flight of fancy, and the puppets are well done. But in a confusing turn, Bob and Leanne freak out over the shadows, and run from the room, triggering laughter from the audience. Terry, however, is enchanted, and he and Colleen leave together after sensing a mutual attraction.
Most of the interactions between Colleen and Terry take place outside of the main set. In order for these scenes to be differentiated they take part on a raised section at the back of the auditorium. It requires the audience to twist around in their seats in order to see what is going on, which detracts from appreciation of the piece simply because it’s extremely uncomfortable.
Now that Colleen has gone from the home, Bob begins to question his relationship with his wife Leanne. The actor portrays Bob in a genuinely terrifying fashion, and his bullying and insecure alpha male attitude looms over the relationships between himself and the other characters. The utter toxicity of the main couple’s relationship is well-presented, as is the changing relationship between the sisters.
The “machine” is mentioned a great deal in the fliers and the advertising. But little further information is provided within the play. It is obviously a metaphor, but for what?
Ultimately, it is difficult to know precisely what is going on and why. However, the performances are strong and the play, for the most part, is well staged. It is a work with interesting ideas and it will remain in the mind for a long time afterwards.