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The Killing of Sister George

By Mike Giuliano | Posted 10/31/2001

The Killing of Sister George

Frank Marcus

There are plenty of well-adjusted lesbians, but you won't find any of them in The Killing of Sister George. In fact, the play's main character is the deranged middle-aged star of a British radio serial who keeps a pretty young thing around the house. The young woman's household duties involve more than making tea, as you'll discover in the Spotlighters Theatre production of Frank Marcus' comic-and-creepy melodrama.

The radio star, June Buckridge, keeps meek flatmate Alice "Childie" McNaught in a state of near-servitude, making her kiss the hem of June's garment, drink her bath water, and . . . well, you get the idea. It's a sicko scenario from the start, and it gets sicker when June learns that her radio character, named Sister George, is about to be killed off. To make matters worse, Mercy Croft, the formidable BBC official who brings June the bad news, shows an amorous interest in Alice, inviting to girl to move out of June's place and in with her. The stage is set for one heck of a catfight.

Best remembered for its 1968 movie version, Sister George seems truer to that period in its assumption that same-sex preference is a sure sign that characters are candidates for the loony bin. The play is also certifiably pre-Stonewall in the way it talks around rather than directly confronting its characters' lesbianism. (The "L" word is never uttered.) These women do a lot of shouting, but their love dare not speak its name.

Outdated sexual politics aside, though, the production is easy to enjoy. The melodrama transpiring in June's flat is as extreme as anything in the radio soap opera in which she appears. It's a hoot watching the extent to which June identifies with Sister George in her off-the-air real life. Director Miriam Bazensky indulges the play's silliness but doesn't let it spill over into camp; she respects the drama within the comic melodrama. The actors--including Bethany Brown as June, Katherine Jaeger as Alice, and Linda Kent as Mercy--sometimes step on each other's lines and occasionally slip into caricature, but these are relatively minor missteps. They believe in Sister George, and you will too.

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