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Tiny Island, Next Theatre Company. Given the scarcity of strong roles for mature actresses, it's a shame that so many playwrights settle for chick-flick cliches sweet enough to make our teeth ache. Tiny Island continues the formula.

The action takes place in the projection room of a run-down movie theater where 30 years earlier the owner's daughter Muriel, fueled by the lush rhetoric of a film about Amelia Earhart, stole her sister Hazel's boyfriend. In this same dark and grubby retreat, the estranged siblings reunite to renew old quarrels, bemoan their present problems (Hazel is separated from her husband while Muriel's neglects her), and ultimately reconcile with big hugs.

Playwright Michael Hollinger drops crises into his narrative at suitable intervals (the women's father is in the hospital, a video store has opened across the street) as well as a smattering of facile feminist rhetoric and well-worn film dialogue. But he cannot divert our suspicion that both these women's frustrations are the result of having based their lives on B movie images viewed from--well, a tiny island. Try as we might to rejoice in Hazel reclaiming her hubby and Muriel her past--by means of an interaction with a young usher that would be appalling if we took it seriously--and despite fine performances by Suzanne Petri and Oksana Fedunysyzn, we can't: the sisters' triumphs are too petty.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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