THE MEMORY OF WATER by Shelagh Stephenson, directed by Barbara Larose (Alumnae, 70 Berkeley). To October 13. Pwyc-$18. 416-364-4170. Rating: NN
Do we ever recall our childhood the same way our siblings do? Probably not.
Certainly, the three grown-up sisters in The Memory Of Water have different recollections of growing up. Their mother, Vi, is now dead, and the three have gathered for the funeral.
The eldest, Teresa, has become the put-upon caregiver, angry that her sibs haven't helped as much as they could; she and her husband Frank sell alternative health supplements.
No surprise she comes into conflict with traditional physician Mary, the middle child, who has hopes for a future with the married Mike. Catherine, the baby, tries to escape paranoia through shopping, sex and drugs.
Shelagh Stephenson 's play balances frustration, warmth and comedy in these women's relationships and the secrets that eat away at them, but those qualities are only sometimes captured in director Barbara Larose 's Alumnae Theatre production.
There are moments when characters connect, but too often the performances stay on the surface; we're not involved in these people's lives. To succeed, the play's arguments and epiphanies need more dramatic tension.
The best work comes from Tabitha Keast and Andy Fraser as Mary and Teresa; these sisters, says one, don't so much argue as bicker, but whatever you call it, it's often bitchily funny and always absorbing. Keast and Fraser understand timing and when to underplay or explode with passion.
Some of their spirit rubs off on the other actors. There's a joyous dress-up scene that includes Andrea Romaldi 's Catherine, for instance. Chantale Groulx 's Vi, who haunts Mary, grows over the course of the show, too, and she's most real in her final scene with Keast.