Sibling rivalry, particularly between the youngest, Becky LeMay (left), playing Betsy, and the eldest, Sheila Terry, playing Martha, fuels the story of eight sisters. It begins Friday at Whidbey Playhouse Community Theatre. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Sibling rivalry, particularly between the youngest, Becky LeMay (left), playing Betsy, and the eldest, Sheila Terry, playing Martha, fuels the story of eight sisters. It begins Friday at Whidbey Playhouse Community Theatre. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

‘Octette Bridge Club’ deals tough love

At Whidbey Playhouse, sisterhood cracks behind the well-coiffed facade

Sisters aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Especially when one of them cracks.

So reveals the Whidbey Playhouse production of “The Octette Bridge Club” that kicks off Friday, Oct. 26 and runs through Nov. 11.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Kevin Wm. Meyer directs, Eric George is producer and Sarah Jayne Gallella is stage manager and assistant director. The play is written by P.J. Barry.

Eight Catholic sisters still living in their hometown appear a rare picture of amicable sisterhood as they meet for their bimonthly bridge games.

The sisterly play set during the Depression and WWII made Meyer change his mind about which play to choose for the theater’s 2018-2019 season. “When I read the script, I heard the quick banter of my mother, my aunts, my cousins,” he said. “It called to me. And if that’s how I hear it, then I need to direct it myself.”

When the play opens, a young Clark Kent (the play’s only male role) is taking photos and notes for the community newspaper about the third anniversary celebration of the sisters’ bridge get-togethers.

But soon after the handsome young reporter leaves, the thrill of imagining front page fame wears thin.

The women return to gossiping, revealing their respective sisterly roles.

Martha, the oldest, is stern, stalwart, humorless and generally, a kill-joy. Betsy, the youngest, is the spoiled (but oddly melancholy) red-haired brat who makes faces mimicking Martha.

Playing the opposite end of the age spectrum are Sheila Terry as Martha and Becky LeMay as Betsy. Terry deftly plays the role as the older, wiser and widowed sister with a brittle body and bitter tongue. The one time she does let loose in a Halloween Spanish dance, she’s wonderfully droll.

Coming on stage for the first time after being behind the scenes at Whidbey Playhouse for a decade, LeMay hits all the complicated emotions required of her starring role.

“It’s my first principal role so I’m really honored they took a chance on me,” LeMay said.

Six more sisters — Nora, Mary, Alice, Ann, Lil and Connie — are of various ages, personalities and peculiarities when it comes to family matters and matters of the heart (and beds).

The play is set in Providence, R.I. back in the day of twin beds as the de rigour expectation of married couples. Husbands are never seen but their faults, infidelity and finer points frequently referenced.

Discussing the annual visit to their parents’ graves on All Soul’s Eve, Nora defiantly declares she’s choosing instead to attend another event with her husband and boys. Lil, the sassy one with the angelic voice, sarcastically calls it “everyone’s favorite holiday of obligation.”

It’s the first of several seams to unravel in the sisters well-coiffed facade of togetherness.

After the card game and others have departed, Betsy reveals to Ann, the “perfect” and perfectly predictable mother, wife and sister, intimate details about her marriage and the reasons why she doesn’t want to go home. Lisa Judd, as she’s done in past roles, adroitly project’s Ann’s arctic emotions using facial expressions alone.

Rusty Hendrix, a longtime Playhouse participant, plays Nora who seems to be a sister of more subdued qualities until she rebels against Martha and delightfully revels in her lasting, romantic marital bliss.

The clock advances one decade as the second act begins during a combo bridge game/Halloween costume and talent contest.

Jaime Montoya, playing Alice in her first speaking role, humorously pulls off a Lone Ranger getup on a hobby horse. Ingrid Schwalbe as the loud, boisterous sister Connie, teams up with Nora for a dandy double witch song and dance.

Second-oldest stage sister Mary is wonderfully portrayed by Cori Siggens, who’s actually the elder of the group.

“I was in my first play at age seven,” she said. “I’ve been doing theater for almost 70 years and thought I was retired. But when I saw the script, I knew I had to do it.

“For the first time, I have sisters and I’m loving it. It’s just been so delightful.”

“The Octette Bridge Club” is on stage Oct. 26 through Nov. 11 at Whidbey Playhouse, Thursday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinee at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18, available at Whidbey Playhouse Box Office, 730 S.E. Midway Blvd., Oak Harbor or online at www.whidbeyplayhouse.com

The Whidbey Playhouse production of “The Octette Bridge Club” follows the lives of eight sisters who meet regularly to play bridge, gossip and get on each other’s nerves. Directed by Kevin Wm. Meyer and produced by Eric George. (Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

The Whidbey Playhouse production of “The Octette Bridge Club” follows the lives of eight sisters who meet regularly to play bridge, gossip and get on each other’s nerves. Directed by Kevin Wm. Meyer and produced by Eric George. (Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

The witched sister act of Nora (Rusty Hendrix) and Connie (Ingrid Schwalbe) delightfully ham it up during the annual family Halloween talent competition.

The witched sister act of Nora (Rusty Hendrix) and Connie (Ingrid Schwalbe) delightfully ham it up during the annual family Halloween talent competition.

In between sisterly dramas and deliberations, actual card games do take place in “The Octette Bridge Club.” Playing a Halloween hand are Jamie Montoya (Lone Ranger), Ingrid Schwalbe (Good/Bad Witch) and Emily Scheidel (Little Red Riding Hood.)

In between sisterly dramas and deliberations, actual card games do take place in “The Octette Bridge Club.” Playing a Halloween hand are Jamie Montoya (Lone Ranger), Ingrid Schwalbe (Good/Bad Witch) and Emily Scheidel (Little Red Riding Hood.)

Becky LeMay, center, playing youngest sister, Betsy, wants to make a house out of blankets like the old days. Playing two older siblings, Lisa Judd, left, and Ingrid Schwalbe, right, try and encourage her to go home instead. Directed by Kevin Wm. Meyer, produced by Eric George.

Becky LeMay, center, playing youngest sister, Betsy, wants to make a house out of blankets like the old days. Playing two older siblings, Lisa Judd, left, and Ingrid Schwalbe, right, try and encourage her to go home instead. Directed by Kevin Wm. Meyer, produced by Eric George.

Cori Siggens, who has been involved in theater for some 70 years, plays second-oldest sister, Mary, in the Whidbey Playhouse production of “The Octette Bridge Club.”

Cori Siggens, who has been involved in theater for some 70 years, plays second-oldest sister, Mary, in the Whidbey Playhouse production of “The Octette Bridge Club.”

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