Theater Review: MIRIAM AND ESTHER GO TO THE DIAMOND DISTRICT (World Premiere at Magic Theater)

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by Chuck Louden on January 23, 2024

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


In Andrea Gordon’s lovely and engaging play Miriam and Esther Go to the Diamond District —  which opened last Friday at Magic Theatre — two estranged sisters meet at their wealthy stepfather’s house 45 years after their opera singer mother’s death to go through her possessions and clean out the house (Nina Ball’s cluttered set helps create a backdrop for the unfolding drama). In addition to clothes, china and old letters, resentments of past hurts and family secrets are discovered. The sisters are now middle-aged themselves and have lived separate lives since adolescence. Both women are still wearing scars from their upbringing.

Ellen Brooks and Janet Roitz
Ellen Brooks and Merrill Grant

Miriam (Ellen Brooks) fled the family as a young teenager for reasons unknown to her younger sister. Esther (Janet Roitz) consequently spent her life dealing with abandonment issues. The effervescent ghost of their beautiful and talented mother (Merrill Grant) appears to each of them in haunting visions of better times. As the weekend goes on the sisters attempt to reconnect, each with their own interpretation of their childhood and their experience of their rich but wicked stepfather.

Janet Roitz and Ellen Brooks
Janet Roitz and Merrill Grant

The story has something relatable for all, and Gordon’s dialogue is well-written and insightful using both humor and pathos. Music (Daniel Lockert, piano arrangements; Chris Sauceda, sound) and Jen Brooks‘ well-choreographed dance sequence between the now dead parents (a handsome Ryan Patrick Welsh as the father) help set the tone of better times (much like Ebenezer Scrooge visiting with The Ghost of Christmas Past). The sisters, although they physically don’t look alike, have a very real and believable chemistry between them, which draws us in to the sisters’ journey where ultimately love and family win in the end.

RP Welsh and Merrill Grant

photos by Marcus Hanschen

Miriam and Esther Go to the Diamond District
Rainbow Zebra Productions LLC
Magic Theatre in San Francisco
Fort Mason, 2 Marina Blvd., Building D, 3rd Floor
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 4
ends on January 28, 2024
for tickets ($30 – $50), visit Miriam and Esther

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