Guy de Cointet, Espahor Ledet Ko Uluner! and Five Sisters; MoMA, 5/10/12
Five Sisters (1982) is a fuller piece, really a one-act play. Here, the language was perfectly comprehensible, though stylized in delivery, while the logic of the blocking and gestures were less easily grasped. On a white set, bare, sometimes bathed in primary-colored light, four women -- leggy, modelish (the actresses, who could have stepped out of a Patrick Nagel print, where perfectly cast and coiffed), also entirely in white -- pass in and out of doorways in their family home (usually, no more than one or two were on stage at once), monologuing or conversing about: one sister’s idyllic visit to Africa; the allergy to sunlight she developed on her return to Southern California (Escondido and Garden Grove are mentioned - the ‘action’ seems to be set south of L.A. proper); another’s workaholism and identity crisis; a red painting by a third (hanging in the never-seen “mood room”); the anti-aging regimen (“Sardines are loaded with RNA!”) recommended by the doctor and lover of a fourth. In fact, health, beauty, self-help and a disgust with aging seem to be the characters’ major concerns. And this did make the piece feel very much of its Pacific-Standard-Time and place (that is, Greater L.A., during that part of the ’80s that still felt like the ’70s), as did the references to radio call-in therapists of the period, especially Dr. Toni Grant, who dispensed somewhat authoritarian post-feminist, proto-Rules advice on KABC for years, and who my dad (a psychologist) used to listen to in the car out of professional interest.
Godot-like, the fifth sister of the title is mentioned, but never appears; the phrase “my sister Eileen” occurs a couple of times - perhaps a reference to the 1940s play of that name (and the now-better known musical version, Wonderful Town - which, oddly enough, I’ll be seeing a revival of in Brooklyn on Saturday). The text also quoted lines, famous ones, from "Prufrock": this was a bit much. Like the first piece, this was diverting and well-performed, though I would have to go back and connect it with more of Cointet’s work to see what its sororal rites were meant to add up to, beyond a transplanted European’s snapshot - arch, but not contempturous - of the skin-deep mores of his adopted city.