Hip Shot: Sisters of Ellery Hollow

The Apothecary, 1013 7th St. NW

Remaining Performances:

Tuesday, July 12, at 6:00 p.m.
Friday, July 15, at 10:15 p.m.
Sunday, July 17, at 4:00 p.m.

They say: "Elsie and Abby lead a hard life, but survive by transforming their painful childhood into tall tales: their impossible birth; their strange caretaker; and the discovery of a secret that threatens to destroy their tiny family."

Olivia's Take: With his vivid imagery and whimsical characters, playwright Stephen Spotswood concocts a world wherein an ambitious woman turns weeping willow, the town pagan captures the moon, twins are born from seeds, and a girl travels via Valentine balloons. To my acid hound uncle this would be just another day in the life, but I found myself enchanted as I reexperienced the oldest, most primeval form of theater — simple storytelling — as if for the first time.

Told by the sisters themselves, Abby (Melissa Hmelnicky) and Elsie (Rachel Holt), Sisters of Ellery Hollow follows the twins’ bizarre conception through their adolescence. Growing up with Gammy Gantry — the town’s only African American; also an herbologist and suspected Devil worshipper — the two sisters never quite fit with the rest of Ellery Hollow’s folk. To cope, they concoct tall tales, which Spotswood paints beautifully.

Casting haunting shadows on the back wall, the residents of Ellery Hollow were brought to life through Ms. Holt’s comedic timing along with Ms. Hmelnicky’s grace. At times the actors' movements and direction was distracting: As the actresses spoke to all three sides of their audience I found myself selfishly annoyed when a back was turned to me. You’re telling me this story! Just me! But I soon caught myself peering over another audience member’s shoulder to watch as a phantom baby emerged from a seed. Yes, I saw it. I’m convinced.

See it if: You can still sense a little imagination somewhere in your pineal gland.

Skip it if: You require spectacle.