Three Sisters Vanishing and Cooler
I was confronted in violent fashion by three sisters in Long Island City last weekend. No, not three - six.
Make that nine. It was a brutal attack, and a haunting one. Three Sisters Vanishing, a tantalizing work-in-progress created by
Turkish-born director Handan Ozbilgin-Bromley drew me into its disturbing world on Friday night in the
Little Theater at LaGuardia Community College.
Saturday night found me at The Chocolate Factory's presentation of Gary Winter's play Cooler where I was intrigued
by one man and three women not acknowledged to be sisters, yet clearly isolated, yearning and at one point even
letting loose with that famous ineffectual rallying cry - "to Moscow!"
There is much fun to be had in watching Cooler, in spite of the clearly doomed characters. Clever wordplay
ricochets off the gray cement walls, a copy of "Moby Dick" caught my eye amidst the set's kitchy clutter of nostalgia
and sure enough, Melville's novel got into the act. There's blood, sex, even a thoroughly entertaining dance
number, but, life in this transport vehicle formerly used for bringing home our dead "heroes" is not cozy.
No, there's a distinct chill in the minds of these folks. Russian cowboy songs are crooned,
a long, black wig is donned in defense of Cher's right to abandon her idealistic self in order to become a
legend for us all, a long-dead father is searched for in a town that may or may not exist, philosophies of
Kant and Ling Pao are flung down in challenge and we get it. "Nothing springs up from thin air,"
one character laments. "I can't imagine complete blankness," states another with just a hint of wonder,
and boy, ain't it the truth. The emptiness lies in wait for us all. A chilling thought indeed.
Winters forces us to contemplate the quagmire of war and our own complicity of silence through the
character of traumatized veteran Jack. The Bush/Cheney years were painful for those of us who have a need to
believe, to hope. Winters slaps us in the face like Cher's character in Moonstruck when she yells "Snap out of it!"
Winters wants us to stop day-dreaming of a better world and create one, dammit, or we may find ourselves in our
own Cooler at the end of days.
Ozbilgin-Bromley employs a more intense form of audience intimidation. She pins us against the wall with images of
woman-on-woman repression and blocks all the exits. Each of Chekhov's three sisters has an Other who whispers menacing
thoughts that drown out any sense of hopefulness. The sisters' certainty that soon they will be able to
return to the exciting life in the city they remember so well is mocked by their Others.
Like the woman in Cooler who tries to forestall forgetting words by reading their dictionary definitions out loud,
Irina moans that she "can't remember the Italian word for window".
In both plays the women are mocked for trying to hold onto an existence that has ended, that, in fact may never
have existed except in the mind of a person who hopes and dreams.
The performers in both plays are strong and professional, but,
I was particularly impressed by the passion and physical power of Alena Acker as Olga,
Jessica Marie Smith as Other Olga and April Evans as Other Irina in Three Sisters Vanishing as well as
Handan Ozbilgin-Bromley's audacious artistry in riffing with Anton Chekhov on the subject of memory as if
the one hundred and six years between his death and the life of this piece did not exist.
The brief run of Three Sisters Vanishing ended April 13, and I await further progress in this work.
The thought-provoking Cooler continues its run at The Chocolate Factory through April 25.
Post-show entertainment - Upon leaving The Chocolate Factory Saturday night, I was about to climb behind
the wheel of my beat-up blue chariot parked so conveniently right there on the corner of 49th Avenue and Vernon Blvd --
(another great reason to hit The Chocolate Factory - it's so easy to get to from - well, everywhere).
Anyway, I spotted lights still on in a shop window a few doors off the avenue and I followed as if drawn by a magnet.
Turns out it was "Subdivision Art", one of the hippest places in Long Island City to discover a new artist or designer.
Hurry and catch the amusing paintings of nudes with the head of suspiciously familiar looking mouse before the Gallery
turns to its next display. And as for designers, of course there are many absolutely lovely pieces of apparel.
But, the impeccable construction and unique style of a line called "Feral Childe" got my heart racing like the jolt
of a triple espresso. Go grab some "Feral Childe" before it's all gone.
Subdivision Art is located at 48-18 Vernon Blvd Long Island City NY