Sibling revelry

The Memory of Water

Adrienne Sher and Christine Nicholson usher in the return of the pillbox hat in <i>The Memory of Water</i>.

Adrienne Sher and Christine Nicholson usher in the return of the pillbox hat in The Memory of Water.

Rated 4.0

There’s nothing like death to bring a family together, but togetherness is not always pretty. Sometimes, forced family functions are messy, stressful, funny, bitter, sad, sweet or an insane cacophony of all of the above.

Such is the gathering of the three sisters in The Memory of Water, who come home to bury their mom and drag all their baggage with them. These bereaved English-village sisters are as different and strangely similar as siblings can get, and playwright Shelagh Stephenson milks their strained relationships for laughs and tears in this tragic comedy, now playing at the Delta King Theatre.

After their mother’s unexpected death, the sisters gather in the matriarch’s flowery English bedroom, where their mom’s bed becomes conversation central. First to arrive is the middle sister, Mary (Adrienne Sher), the successful, career-oriented doctor. She’s soon joined by the oldest, Teresa (Christine Nicholson), an uptight health nut who took on the responsibility of the mom and lets no one forget it. After these two settle in and catch up, Catherine (Stephanie Gularte) bursts in. She’s the self-involved drama queen and youngest of the lot.

What follows are the snips, slings and stings of three sisters who are swimming and drowning in a sea of memories and secrets. The trio gets through the day with a bit of bud, a bottle of booze and boatloads of blame. Even the mother (Vada Russell) pops up now and then, in side conversations with Mary.

What makes this production so fun is the obvious affection the cast members have for one another. You can see it with the three main actresses as well as with short appearances by Russell as the mother, and Eric Wheeler and Luther Hanson as mates. Sher, Nicholson and Gularte are a hoot—especially in scenes like the one in which the tipsy sisters go through their mother’s closet, trying on her clothes and trading childhood stories.

The cast members all are gifted veterans of the Delta King stage, where they’ve been involved in various projects and theater troupes, most notably with Synergy Stage. They make a well-oiled theatrical team, slipping only in the regionally different English accents that ebb and flow throughout the production.

Stephenson’s script is clever, funny and insightful, though it is sometimes uneven in its approach to comedy and drama. It also uses the mother at odd moments. But in the end, these sibling rivals come together to celebrate life, death and their quirky unit called “family.”