The Bauer Sisters: New Stories from the Old Country

CAM00638Part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival
Review by Sander Gusinow

Old scars and lighthearted humor are at the center of The Producing Club’s Chekhov-esque The Bauer Sisters. Written by relative newcomer John Dirrigl, the play revolves around a book club of greying German women in 1986 Pennsylvania. On a hot summer’s day, a confluence of events pushes decades-old skeletons into the sunlight. Despite the play’s occasional long-winded tendencies, not to mention questionable German accents, The Bauer Sisters proves a bittersweet look at the pleasures and regrets of life long lived.

Deborah Unger plays the firm and fragile Rosie Bauer. Rosie’s guilt surrounding the deaths of her children prevents her from marrying her rakish ex-lover Louie. As the play progresses, her desire to move on pushes her into confrontation with the other members of the club, most notably her sister Ingie. (Jacqueline Kroschell) Stories of life and death, both long past and yet to come, swirl around the sentimental hour and a half.

Director Troy Diana has a bit more to learn, I think. Diana’s use of clichéd lighting and clunky tableau sucker-punches moments that would work plenty well on their own. That said, the wash and rhythm of the staging strikingly suggests a sweaty summer’s day. A talent to watch, for surety.

The show slows down considerably in the second half (unevenly halting between one emotional revelation after the other) and I couldn’t help but wonder what a play so thoroughly in the thrall of the old masters is doing onstage in 2014. But although the play seems right at home in a museum, the topic of late-life regret will never go out of style. If you look past the odd setting and suspicious dialect, The Bauer Sisters may well give you reason to both curse and rejoice the ever-creeping passage of time.

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