Sisters

Through May 25 at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason (between Post and Geary), S.F. Tickets are $20; call 989-0023.

Sisters is by Wendy Lill, a Canadian member of Parliament who adapted a novel called The Glace Bay Miners' Museum for the stage. The Phoenix Theatre produced a powerful version of Glace Bay a few years ago in its last location, and now it's revisiting Lill in a new space with this original script about nuns. “Original,” though, is just a technical term. Lill is too much of a politician to have anything fresh to say about the repressive Indian schools run by Catholic nuns in Canada from 1870 to 1969. She, along with the whole Canadian government, is in fully justified apology mode for what the nuns did to Indian children (abused them, uprooted them, forbade their language), and the play amounts to a staged apology. But it doesn't show a single Indian child. The suffering here is all borne by white people, weeping about what they've done. Lauren English and Esther Mulligan play a nun named Mary at two stages of life, first as a young woman taking her vows and then as a middle-aged arsonist, in jail for burning the school. The intervening story, about why she set the fire, is predictable, and except for decent performances by both English and Mulligan, the drama never comes to life.

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