In a day and age where people lives are so often defined by what they leave behind, what happens when indivisible things get left to multiple people? In other words, what happens next if a house is left to three daughters who cannot decide on what to do with it?
In Heiress Productions currently playing adaptation of Jacob M. Appel's Thirds we are introduced to three sisters, the beginnings of a brick wall, and healthy amount of family dysfunction. This quirky comedy is an entertaining time at the theatre, and one that I would recommend all the more because a portion of its ticket sales goes to benefit Hope & Heroes Children's Cancer Fund.
As I walked into The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row I immediately thought of the kind of setting one could have for any Beth Henley play. Of course, the well-put together, but slightly 80s inspired décor was offset by the beginnings of a brick wall evident on either side of the stage. This, we soon learn is a project that Maya (Kelly Strandemo) has begun in order to separate her third of the house from that of sisters Olivia (Laura Faith) and Delilah (Leigh Williams).
As is common with a certain brand of comedy, clichés and stock characters appear to abound at the start. We have the brainy librarian Olivia who just wants everyone to get along, the stern older sister Delilah who is less attached to the memory of her dead mother than the futures of her own children, and the offbeat artistic Maya who is emotionally attached to the house. These three sisters are perfectly at odds, and the production's first success is to establish a comedic pattern that recurs throughout the show involving the interactions between the three sisters.
I appreciate this show, as it's somewhat rare to see a new comedy that actually makes me laugh out loud. Often new shows have really excellent moments and jokes that just don't work, but Thirds manages to avoid this pitfall. Though I do think that the show might be better served as a one act, due to a bit of excess dialogue in the first act, there are no sour notes. This makes for a viewing experience that is simply enjoyable, which is shockingly refreshing.
Of course, there is a fourth character in the show, a certain woman named Phyllis (Jenna Panther) who shows up to throw a wrench into the already befuddled sisterly negotiations. The reason that I mention a one-act form is because this late introduction of Phyllis splits the play more firmly into two acts than I believe is necessary. As this presence brings things to a head, I would suggest that slightly less build up is necessary to her entrance, meaning that a one-act might streamline the play into a powerhouse.
Despite this thought, the show has some great comic writing in it and a structure that works. Zac Hoogendyk's direction is clearly in keeping with the script and the performances all felt well situated in the same world. Thirds didn't make me ponder any deep questions or blow me away with any particular performances, but please don't think I'm attempting to damn with faint praise. Sometimes it's nice to go to the theatre and see a new show that does a solid job of entertaining you. Thirds is the perfect show to do this, as you can have an enjoyable experience and support a solid cause as easy one, two, three.
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