Review: ‘Three Sistahs’ at MetroStage

MetroStage’s Three Sistahs is a marvelous musical, an evening of vocal and dramatic excellence. Written and directed by Thomas W. Jones II – with a story by Janet Pryce – and music by William Hubbard, this show features three amazing actresses, Roz White, Kara-Tameika Watkins, and Ayana Reed telling the story of the Bradshaw sisters’ lives in the aftermath of their oldest brother’s death in the Vietnam War.

Kara Tameika Watkins, Roz White, and Ayana Reed in 'Three SIstahs' at MetroStage. Photo by Chris Banks.
Kara Tameika Watkins, Roz White, and Ayana Reed in ‘Three SIstahs’ at MetroStage. Photo by Chris Banks.

William Knowles’s music direction and piano-playing, along with Yusef Chisholm, on bass, and Greg Holloway’s drums fueled rhythm and blues and gospel songs like “Passing Over,” “Same Ole Dance,” and “In A Perfect World.” Knowles earned a Helen Hayes Nomination for Gee’s Bend and worked in Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song, both at MetroStage.

Producing Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin loves the show so much she’s brought it back for the fourth time since its 2002 inception (White has played in all four). “So when we call it MetroStage’s iconic musical we mean it!!” Griffin writes in the director’s notes.

Three Sistahs, which takes place in the fall of 1969 in Washington, is based on 19th-century Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Sisters Olive (White), Marsha (Watkins), and Irene (Reed) spend much of the play in the living room of their deceased parents’ house, reminiscing mostly about their stern, West Point graduate, World War II veteran father and their late brother Anton. The amazing White brings insight and maturity to the oldest sister, Olive. White is a MetroStage mainstay, having appeared there in Blackberry Daze and Black Pearl Sings. Watkins, who has appeared in Hairspray and Dreamgirls at Signature Theater, fleshes out the married-with-six kids Marsha, and Reed, who was also in Blackberry Daze, and whose resume includes singing Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in Italy, brings militancy to her role of the youngest sister, Irene.

Olive’s tale of her first kiss, in her parents’ basement, is reenacted – moaning and all – in “Basement Kind of Love” by White. The funky, upbeat “Summer of Smoke” features Reed’s excellent vocals and red and blue flashing lights, designed by Alexander Keen. (Keen also creates the illusion of a lit fireplace during “Letter #2.”) The gospel standard “Leak in This Old Building,” sang by the entire cast, brings the audience to an emotional high.

Kara-Tameika Watkins and Roz White in 'Three Sistahs' at MetroStage. Photo by Chris Banks.
Kara-Tameika Watkins and Roz White in ‘Three Sistahs’ at MetroStage. Photo by Chris Banks.

The talented trio sang “In My Father’s House” with heavenly harmonizing. Watkins soloed in “Same Ole Dance” while the song “My One Chance to Dance” was accentuated by inspired choreography. Reed and White powerfully portray a sisterly argument and while simultaneously singing “Last Thing Said.”

Michael Sharp’s costume design includes black, funeral-style to more casual business-style dresses to Irene’s late-1960s style blouse. Set Consultant Carl Gudenius creates a semi-realistic set that evokes an old house, which includes empty picture frames and a scrimmed-off area upstairs, house left, where members of the cast change costumes. I like the subdued tones put up by Scenic Painter Nancy Bundy. Always crisp in his direction, Jones makes Three Sistahsan ovation-worthy delight. As Griffin puts it, the show has “timeless themes, memorable character and unforgettable music.”

MetroStage will be moving to a new location in June or July. Check the theater’s Website for details.

Running Time:  Approximately two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Three Sistahs plays through February 24, 2019, at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal Street, Alexandria VA. For tickets, call the MetroStage box office at (703) 548-9044 or purchase them online.