Six sisters, some more estranged than others, must face the crisis of their widowed mother behaving badly at her nursing home in Belles: The Reunion, a comedy/drama by Mark Dunn running this summer at Limelight Actors Theater in Gilroy.
But the immediate issue—Mom disrobing in the community room—is just the starting point for this mostly-comic show in which all of the dialogue is performed by actors on the phone with each other. Over the course of the show, each sister’s personality unfolds, each sibling’s relationship is revealed, and what you thought was happening early on turns into something unexpected.
Director and theater co-founder Kevin Heath has drawn together six talented actors to play the Walker sisters—Rosalind Farotte as Peggy, Donna M. Knippen as Audrey, Christine McElroy as Roseanne, Christy Wait as Sherry, Christine Wanish as Paige and Betsy Andrade as Aneece. Each actor manages to carve out, in her eight-foot-square chunk of the stage, a distinct persona in locales as diverse as New York, Santa Fe, Georgia, Iowa and Mississippi.
The family is centered on eldest sister Peggy, who has been the “in charge of Mom” sister for 30 years in Memphis, Tenn., and who keeps up with her sisters’ changes in address and marital status across the miles. She’s also lost all her money to a con artist. Her sister Sherry is the flighty one, prone to tropical-print caftans and too much affection toward her sister’s husband. Roseanne has been married three times to pastors, which she calls “dancing-bear narcissists.” Audrey’s been drowning her grief in the bottle for decades over the deaths of her son and her husband; even her hospital gig as Bimbles the Clown gives her no relief. Paige’s marriage is on the rocks as well, in an unexpected way. And Aneece, out of contact with her family for four years, is a lesbian in a relationship crisis of her own.
The show’s gimmick—that none of the women is in the same room with any of her sisters—makes the show very dialogue-heavy, which also means that nearly all the character development comes from what the sisters say to one another. You’ll get clues based on their costumes and the small spaces representing their homes, but most of it comes through their phone calls. And sometimes the conversations they have with others outside the family can be as revealing as those within the group. Aneece, played with subtle resolve by Andrade, shows her pain more when she talks with her soon-to-be-ex than with her sisters. Peggy’s revelations of her own dysfunctional relationship within the nuclear family tread on familiar ground.
“Belles: The Reunion” runs through July 14 at Limelight Actors Theater at the Gilroy Center for the Arts, 7341 Monterey St., Gilroy. Tickets are $25. For information, call 408.472.3292 or visit www.LimelightActorsTheater.com.