When Bonnie Green put pen to paper, she intended to write a serious play inspired by the experience she and her siblings had when her mother’s health began to fail.
But once she started, what she found on the page was a comedy rather than a serious drama — and she embraced it.
Now, the play is set to make its world premiere at Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops.
Meet My Sister tells the story of Stella, portrayed by Linda Prystawska, and Blanche, portrayed by Sharon McFarlane, who are two sisters trying in vain to get their dementia-suffering mother to come out of her locked-up house on the day she’s supposed to be moving into a seniors home.
The play has just one other cast member, Sly, an unrevealed character portrayed by Julien Arnold.
Despite the serious premise and emotional moments in the story, the play is very much a comedy — and much of it involves the rivalry between the two main characters.
“Sharon [Bajer], the director, is pushing us to be really hardcore with each other — she talks of her experience and nothing is too far,” McFarlane said.
The way the conflict emerges on stage is Stella’s obvious frustration with Blanche’s free-spirited ways, and conversely, Blanche’s annoyance by Stella’s obstinacy.
“It’s deep-seeded. As soon as they come together as adults, that child-like competition is totally there — and in heightened circumstances,” McFarlane said.
McFarlane is making her WCT debut, but her list of credits is long, including screen credits like Oscar-winning film Spotlight and CTV’s Saving Hope, while her theatre credits include The Merchant of Venice at the Stratford Festival and Dancing at Lughnasa at the Citadel Theatre.
But when it comes to sibling rivalry, McFarlane will have to put her acting chops to work.
“I have a sister and brothers who are much older than me, so I was like an only child,” she told KTW, noting that support from Bajer and Green has helped bring the character to life.
Prystawska, on the other hand, has some experience in tormenting a sibling.
“I don’t have a sister — I have a younger brother — but as children I was awful to him. I was a terrible older sister, so I can definitely relate to that,” she said.
Because the play is brand new, McFarlane and Prystawska first attended a workshop with Green in November to suss out the playwright’s motives with the script.
“We were digging for more intentions and what she was looking for, what she hoped to achieve. The characters are really well written, the actual words that we say give you a sense of what the character is about,” Prystawska said.
The workshop also included changes to the script.
“It was a cool part of the process, which is different. Often you just get the script and that’s it. With this, we had input,” McFarlane said.
She said that one of the challenges in staging a play for the first time is the need to experiment and develop her character.
“Things are often arbitrary at first, but then you sort of let go of the things that didn’t work or didn’t make sense. And sometimes things feel really great and you come back to the scene a day or two later and go, ‘Wow, that doesn’t feel good anymore,’” McFarlane said.
Meet My Sister is a comedy with a lot of heart, according to Prystawska, who said she’s found kinship in her co-star McFarlane.
The two will hit the Sagebrush Theatre stage on Thursday for a show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and future showtimes are available at Kamloops Live box office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483 or online at kamloopslive.ca.
The play runs until Feb. 2, with shows each day except Sundays.