Tales of two sisters from WP Theater and New Normal Rep

Every April I’m reminded of the incisive question posed by the Guerrilla Girls – an anonymous group of feminist performance artists, formed in NYC in 1985, to fight sexism and racism within the art world: “If February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, what happens the rest of the year?” Answer: Discrimination.

This year, although March has come and gone, a host of companies are continuing to present female-centric programs, including WP Theater and New Normal Rep – each with a gripping story focused on two sisters.

Dan Harris, Lila Blue, Kate Kilbane, and Kofy Brown. Photo by Pamela Gentile.

Weightless – The final offering in the Spring 2021 season of Off-Broadway’s WP Theater, dedicated to the work of women+ theater artists, is a theatrical concert film featuring the musical storytelling of the San Francisco Bay Area indie rock band The Kilbanes. Inspired by a tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the married songwriting and performing duo of Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses has interwoven ancient mythology, narration, and dialogue, cinematography and animation, with a rock music score and lyrics, for an original visual concept album, performed and filmed live at Bruns Amphitheater/California Shakespeare Theater following strict Covid protocol.

Under the direction of Drama League nominee Tamilla Woodard (Associate Director, Hadestown), Kilbane and Moses are joined onscreen by fellow performers/band members Lila Blue, Kofy Brown, Joshua Pollock, and Dan Harris, and supported by the creative team of Katherine Freer (animation and editing), Yee Eun Nam (animation), Peggy Peralta (cinematography), David Israel Reynoso (production and costume design), and Gregory T. Kuhn (sound editing). Together they deliver a magical tale of love, betrayal, sacrifice, flight, and, above all, sisterhood, as Procne and Philomela – two deeply devoted sisters – journey across worlds to be reunited through divine intervention after a brutal separation.

The film, running approximately 70 minutes, streams through Sunday, May 30, 2021. Viewing is free, but donations are welcome. To reserve a ticket, visit the WP Theater website; a web link with instructions will be emailed to you.

(Clockwise from left) Jimmy Smits, Florencia Lozano, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Gary Perez. Photo courtesy of New Normal Rep.

Two Sisters and a Piano – Written and directed by Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz, the next selection in New Normal Rep’s inaugural series of pandemic-time programming in the new medium of online theater made its world debut in 1999, live on stage at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre. But its socio-political themes of lockdown, isolation, sexual politics, and corruption of power continue to resonate now, in our era of COVID-19, the #MeToo movement, and massive protests against endemic discrimination towards select segments of our society.

Set in Havana in 1991, during the Pan American Games and the Russian withdrawal from Cuba, the powerful drama portrays two sisters – novelist Maria Celia and pianist Sofia – under house arrest together after having served time in prison for the author’s writings in support of perestroika. When a lieutenant assigned to their case becomes attracted to Maria Celia, whose work he has been reading, passion trumps politics and the two begin a relationship. But can he be trusted, or is he just an instrument of the government, there to gain more incriminating evidence? While both sisters are longing for love and freedom, the two find escape from their captivity through their imaginations and their art.

​Starring the formidable cast of Florencia Lozano, Gary Perez, Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Jimmy Smits, with Adriana Gaviria serving as Virtual Technical Director, the new two-hour production marks a theatrical reunion for Cruz, Smits, and Rubin-Vega, who worked together on the 2004 Broadway engagement of Cruz’s Tony-nominated Pulitzer Prize-winning play Anna in The Tropics.

Two Sisters and a Piano streams on demand from 7 pm, Wednesday, April 21-Sunday, May 23, 11:55 pm, at New Normal Rep. For tickets, priced at $25, $10 for students and theater professionals, and $75 for a three-play season subscription (which gives free access to special programming, including live play-readings, special Q&A discussions, and virtual happy hours), go online.​ The Speakeasy, a virtual opening night talkback with the cast and creative team, follows the April 21st premiere at 9:30 pm.

For a preview of the show, click on the arrow below:

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