There is a plethora of twists and turns and digressions in Thirds. The production might have been better served had some of them been cut short with a “but I digress” strategy. It is, however, filled with convincing dialogue spoken by actors who clearly did their homework, and directed with expediency.
The story is essentially the conflict of three daughters faced with the decision of what to do with their dead mother’s home–the greed, fear and guilt involved as well as the love and caring. It is also, in many ways, the story of their dead mother. Always unquestionably well-intentioned though somewhat eccentric, she consistently wrote letters to prominent people, including presidents, about a variety of matters that she cared passionately about—some important, some perhaps not (you should smile more).
As the first act opens, Maya (Kelly Strandemo) is building a brick wall to define her one-third of the house. She is a trained artist and also a fanatic environmentalist determined to build an eco-friendly water reclamation system. Living with the guilt of not being with her mother in her final hours, she is obsessed with memories, real and imagined.
Delilah (Leigh Williams) appears to be the most practical of the daughters, and sometimes the most negative. She has, disputably, the most at stake in possessing the house. It is crucial to her that her children, already confused and disturbed at their first encounter with death, are in a highly rated school district.
Olivia (Laura Faith) sincerely wants everyone to live together and be happy. A librarian, she alludes to life in the library “…a simple ‘shhh’ and the whole word returns to peace again.” She is also incapable of standing up for herself or her opinions. Her decision is the final one, determining the fate of their mother’s home. Unable to bear the stress of the endless conflict between her sisters, Olivia threatens to sell the house and arranges for a potential buyer to visit.
Phyllis (Jenna Panther) used to live across the street and, with an insane mother who would not allow her to have a life of her own, lived vicariously by spying on the daughters and their mother with binoculars. Her plan is to buy the house, destroy the house across the street and replace her own life story with theirs.
Maya and Delilah’s effort to dissuade her by insisting that the house is infected with all sorts of horrible bugs, is derailed because Phyllis’ husband has had great success as a creator of weapons based upon the movement and habits of bugs and she writes poems about them. The scene is funny, it is revealing, and it is very long.
Phyllis fluctuates between being a flesh and blood person and a comic book character so frequently that we never totally believe in either one; she ends up as simply unbelievable. It is an extremely difficult role and Panther gives it her all.
How will the police respond to a dead body in the living room? Does the ghost of the baboon that killed the baby sister still haunt the house? Does Maya build her water system? Who ends up with the house, and does Olivia finally speak up for what she believes?
Is it a happy ending? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but whatever the outcome, their mother’s letters will be framed and prominently displayed in the house.
Photos by Katherine Miles Jones, left to right,from top:
1. Leigh Williams, Kelly Strandemo and Laura Faith
2. Kelly Strandemo and Leigh Williams
3. Jenna Panther, left, and Kelly Strandemo
4. Kelly Strandemo, Laura Faith, and Leigh Williams
Produced by Heiress Productions
Written by Jacob M. Appel and adapted by Kevin Brewer
Directed by Zac Hoogendyk
At The Lion Theatre
410 West 42nd Street
Friday, March 16 at 8 p.m.;
Saturday, March 17 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.;
Sunday, March 18 at 3 p.m.