The Sister Twins serves up tea with a lump or two | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Sister Twins serves up tea with a lump or two

An intimate play from Transcendent Ensemble Theatre Company revels in rituals—and their disruption.


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It's the audience who first performs in Stephen Webb's The Sister Twins, a new play about self-discovery through the breaking of routine. The show begins with a tea party, the actors serving audience members their cuppa, sugar lumps, and cucumber sandwiches. Social etiquette and self-awareness go hand in hand, and the vehicle of tea perfectly launches us into the lives of two sisters whose very world depends on rigid adherence to ritual.

But ritual clinging does not a compelling play make, and so the sisters' lives become upended after their father performs a little ritual of his own, giving his mustache a trim. Ye who think it unpromising to hinge a play on the removal of facial hair will be pleasantly proved wrong. And rather than feed us some packaged message about gender, the show interchanges male and female actors, allowing our concepts of sexuality to flow rather than ebb. "We are going to devour father with total antimustache acceptance," says one daughter of the father, who's ultimately reduced to an inanimate black bowler.

Originally performed as a ten-minute play in New York, the previous home of Transcendent Ensemble Theatre Company, The Sister Twins now runs about 45 minutes, 35 of which utilize repetition with Meisnerian gusto. Webb doesn't shy from having his characters parrot dialogue, and the show's smart language allows for discovery after fearless discovery. The intimate Parlor theater proves an ideal space as, dynamic and bright, The Sister Twins' action pulls you in and keeps you perched there, teacup in hand.


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