Writer and director Trinity Amanda Kesselring’s claim that Four Sisters, Four Seasons is inspirational may be a little overblown-but not much. Acting Out Theater Company, the amateur group Kesselring founded when she returned to Santa Barbara recently from Los Angeles, is both a theater class and an opportunity for anyone who’s ever wanted to be on stage to show their stuff. The script was specifically written for this group of actors, and they rose to the occasion with grace.
As Santa Barbara residents, we’re accustomed to seeing professional theater and art, much more so than inhabitants of cities of a similar size in other places. An amateur group, therefore, often tends to be ignored-or at least downplayed, due to the competing presence of professional companies. However, this show not only played to a full house at the Center Stage Theater, it was one of the few standing ovations in which I’ve participated willingly in my time as a reviewer.
Four Sisters, Four Seasons tells the story of four middle-aged sisters who, over the course of a year, experience often painful and frequently hilarious personal growth and discovery. Minor line flubs aside, the cast as a whole was able to communicate emotion intelligibly, and with the occasional moment of true pathos. Professionals they are not, but their enthusiasm for the project and for their characters shone through. It was impossible not to experience the show viscerally through the cast’s obvious identification with their characters.
And it’s rare to see theater presented with such unpretentious charm. The audience was well aware that what they were seeing was not a polished production; the actors were equally aware, and simply presented the funny, carefully crafted script with pleasure and sincerity. Particularly enjoyable to watch were Denise Dutra as Charlotte, the sister who develops an unexpected romantic interest, and Davor Magdic (Robert, Milosh), who was outstandingly funny in both of his roles.
At the end of the show, the cast took their bows to Queen’s We Are the Champions. It was entirely appropriate. I’ll see anything Acting Out Theater Company produces in the future, simply for the pleasure of experiencing an evening that will be enjoyed equally by everyone in the theater, on both sides of the stage.