I suspect The Nosdrahcir Sisters, a loosely threaded, two-woman clown show was, as yet, unfinished when I saw it early Friday evening. But there were plenty of laughs, even if the narrative stalled in a few places.
Two friends and co-creators, Kimberly and Sara Richardsonnon-relatives who happen to share a last nameplay sister-roommates Dusty and Hilde Nosdrahcir (thats Richardson spelled backwards, in case youre trying to sound it out). As mentioned above, these characters are clownsbut not of the red noses and floppy shoes variety. Rather, the Richardsons are practicing a European tradition of clowning that reduces performers (and the characters they create) to their most essential, buffoonish coresthis kind of clowning amplifies a performers most glaring traits, those embarrassing tics he or she might otherwise seek to hide from the world.
The simple-headed Nosdrahcir sisters fill their days with zany aerobic routines and trips to the grocery store. It doesnt appear as though they have active social livesin fact, theyre moved to compose a tearful song by a random act of kindness, which they witness one day on the city bus.
The purpose here is to find humor in both the sad and the mundane. In that regard, Kimberly has great success. She plays Dusty, a quiet, rather dense woman of no-certain age with unblinking eyes, a mousy, cartoonish speaking voice, and an affinity for wearing pirate-esque eye-patches to the grocery store. (When she wears it, she says, she has no depth perception and therefore, it presents a challenge as shes reaching for her box of Cheerios.)
Kimberly is the star of the shows most gut-busting scene. Unfortunately, itd ruin the surprise to reveal any specifics, but suffice it to say this moment involves the art of shopping for produce, a mermaid costume, and Kimberlys fearless, sympathetic inhabitation of her daffy character.
Sara Richardson, on the other hand, hadnt gotten the giggles out of her system in time for opening night. And its no wonderher duties include crooning Lionel Richies Hello to a lowly melon. In later scenes, where Sara struggles to paint a vivid portrait of her character, it is, perhaps, because her clown is surprisingly smartHilde is endowed with a decent vocabulary and hints of emotional depth lurking behind her a strained, empty smile. (In one tragicomic scene, the sisters' mother sends Hilde a sunlamp in hopes of relieving her depression.) In any case, Hilde just doesnt muster the same number of laughs as Dusty.
The best thing about this show is its unabashed femininity. The characters take pleasure in the rhythmic sounds of clinking teacups; indulging in a moment of silliness, they make creative use of their neck pillows (those U-shaped things women so adoreyou put them in the microwave and then wrap them around your neck to relieve stiffness). When worn atop their heads, they imagine, the pillows make them look like aliens.
Whats more, the characters made quick costume changes behind a pair of floral curtains. And when they talk to their mother on the phone, the old lady chirps about all manner of trivialitiesher cats, the friends with whom she lunchesand yet, Hilde and Dusty still listen with interest. (This is uniquely the lot of womenand yes, it tickles the funny bone of anyone who recognizes the scene from her own life.)
As far as the humor goes, theres nothing malicious here. Rather, Kimberly and Sara offer a series of wacky and gently humorous vignettes on what is probably the greatest fear of long-living women: loneliness. Theres also the matter of having to feign cheerfulness in a sad, sad world (see Saras perma-grin). The Nosdrahcir Sisters is a big-hearted show, not tearjerker; and yet it offers plenty of sobering observationsso clear-eyed and familiar that will leave you a little wistful all the same.
About the writer: Christy DeSmith is a former editor at The Rake. She is also a freelance theater critic and was recently named an affiliated writer for 2007-08 by the Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre magazine.
What: The Nosdrahcir Sisters by Sara and Kimberly Richardson
Where: U of M Rarig Center Xperimental, Minneapolis, MN
When: August 1, 3, 5, 8 & 10 (click here for specific performance times)
Admission: $12 (plus a $3 Fringe button)
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