Two Spinsters In Search of Love

Jocelyn Stringer as Florence and Kim Saunders as Viola

In "Indulgences In the Louisville" Harem by John Orlock, two Kentucky spinster sisters struggle against the suffocating loneliness inherent in their cloistered existence until swept into a thrilling, yet bizarre courtship by a world famous mesmerist and his assistant.  

This play, which opened June 17 at Off Broadway West Theatre Company reminds one of Tennessee Williams.  The plot is a bit Tennessee Williams-ish if only because it is impossible to see a southern spinster of a certain age onstage occupying a genteelly decaying household without thinking of Williams.  There are two such women in Indulgences, sisters named Florence (Jocelyn Stringer) and Viola (Kim Saunders).  Both are full of yearnings that find expression in flowery speeches and mutual reproach.  Florence and Viola receive a catalog listing eligible gentlemen and argue about whether to use it.  

Pretty soon, two top-hatted men from the International Institute of Science and Populism turn up.  They are Amos Robbilet (Damien Cin Seperi) a mesmerist who is unable to speak and Winfield Davis (Paul Stout), who serves as Robbilet's voice, wooing for him, like Cyrano, though occasionally also speaking for  himself.  The two are obviously con men but they're more comic than menacing. In fact, the best moments of the Off Broadway West production belong to Winfield Davis. Perhaps this is because Davis' speeches are better written than the rest of the play or because Paul Stout brings a real sense of humanity to his role. 

Both Jocelyn Stringer and Kim Saunders give moving performances as the two sisters with superb Kentucky accents.  However, they should project more to be more audible.  Damien Cin Seperi gives a fine comic mime performance as Robbilet.  Under the meticulous direction of Richard Harder, a good balance was achieved between the extremes of comedy of the con men and the melancholy of the two sisters.  The cozy living room set by Bert van Aalsburg was very much in period for the turn of the century. The costuming by Sylvia Kratins was all that it should be, both authentic and proper for both period and character. The lighting design by Colin Cross was remarkable.  Richard Harder's direction was crisp, clean and concise.  Indulgences In the Louisville Harem is a natural for the Off Broadway West Theatre Company where the direct addresses to the audience and the comic turns capitalize the theater's intimacy.  

Indulgences In the Louisville Harem continues through July 30 at the Phoenix Theatre, Suite 601, 414 Mason Street (between Geary and Post) in San Francisco.  Performances are held Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. For tickets go to or call 800-838-3006.

Coming up next at Off Broadway Theatre Company will be Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard from September 30, 2011-November 5, 2011 at Phoenix Theatre, San Francisco.

Flora Lynn Isaacson