Nobody knows you when you're down and out

The Twilight Ladies

By Howard Sussman
Directed by Steven Thornburg
Sage Theatre Company
Tribeca Playhouse, 111 Reade St. nr. Chambers St. (206-1515)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 19)
Review by Sheila Mart

The Twilight Ladies, an aptly named bittersweet tale set in Depression-era Pittsburgh of 1936, is emotionally impressive, due to Howard Sussman's sensitive writing. It tells of two sisters, Lily Rider (Teresa Fischer) and Margie Klein (Elyse Seiden), each one suffering from a devastating loss, exacerbated by the hard economic climate. Lily, recently widowed, is now forced to take in the Boarder (Marco Jo Clate) and work a menial job in a local store to pay the bills and raise her 12-year-old son Ben Rider (Matias Letelier). Understandably, she finds no joy in life and sees little hope for a brighter future. When her sister Margie appears for what will probably be her last visit, Lily is further burdened and saddened by her helplessness to do anything about her sister's illness. Margie is suffering from TB - in that era always a terminal disease. Margie has been staying at a sanitarium and has been told by doctors that she needs complete bed rest, which, because there were no drugs, was the only treatment available.

Chi Chi Lombardo (Suzanne Levinson), an old high-school friend who for some unexplainable reason is a lesbian, appears; also Herbie Krammer (Marc Diraison). Herbie is a long-time fiancé of Margie who has repeatedly visited her at Leech Farm, as the sanitarium is called. He apparently loves her but is so scared of her illness and its prognosis that they have never had sex. He breaks the engagement in order to marry another woman. Herbie's domineering mother (Susan Scudder) enters and appeals to Margie to hold on to Herbie and not let him marry "this blonde bombshell." The one flaw in this story, which at 90 intermissionless minutes is too long, is the introduction of the Hobo (Jason Griffin). The character is superfluous and contrived, although he is meant to show that Margie is still capable of giving and receiving love from a man. Was there a reason for his being Irish? There were hoboes of other ethnicities at that time.

Director Steven Thornburg wove a delicate feel into this piece that was just right.

The performances of Seiden, Clate, Levinson, and Scudder were consummate and a joy to watch. Fischer did not give a totally rounded performance; she could have used more vocal variety and appeared too young for the role. Diraison was effective in what he was given to do as Herbie; and Griffin gave a credible performance as the Hobo, again with the given material. Letelier was a believably innocent boy.

The costumes by John M. Nakovich and Teresa Fischer looked most authentic.

Lighting and sound by Louis Lopardi and Frank Calo, respectively, were perfect.

The set, by Tommy Barz, gave an accurate representation of the era.

Box Score:

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 1

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2000 Sheila Mart