jeffsoesbe (jeffsoesbe) wrote,

Theatre comment: "Sarah, Sarah" by Daniel Goldfarb @ B Street

Last night, C and I went to see "Sarah, Sarah" by Daniel Goldfarb at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento. Overall I enjoyed it, though I had some issues with how the play is structured. I did enjoy the performances of the actors, especially Amy Resnick in the lead

The play has two acts. The first act is set in 1961 and centers on Sarah, a (stereotypical?) Jewish mother who is meeting with her son's fiancee. During the meeting, in which the mother's cross-dressing Polish housekeeper is involved and the son arrives near the end, there are confrontations and judgement and secrets are revealed and some sort of uncertain ending is reached.

The second act is set 40 years later. The son is now about 60 or so and has traveled with his grown daughter to China, where she is adopting a child. The adoption and the events afterward are portrayed in multiple short scenes, there are difficult talks, but eventually everyone comes to an acceptance of the child (who is named Sarah after her great-grandmother).

Right before the play I was talking to C about how I really respect a playwright who can make one act be one scene. When one long (30/45/60 minute) scene accomplishes a lot of "goals", it's somethign I really enjoy. You get a good solid involved look at the flow of characters and motivations during a long scene even if the scene has many sub-parts. My classic example here is "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", a marvelous play.

This is in constrast to a play composed of lots of small scenes. Here, I think the disjointed nature of the presentation makes it harder to connect more fully with the characters and also makes the "purpose" of any given scene more transparent. Modern plays seem to be moving towards this style more and more. This doesn't mean I don't enjoy these plays less, I just really respect the first type more when it works. "Arcadia" and "Death of a Salesman" are two of my favorite plays yet they are both of this second type.

"Sarah, Sarah" really confirmed and expressed my opinion of play styles. The first act was all one scene and I really liked it. I got involved with the characters, I loved the flow of dialogue and motivation, and time almost stretched out as I became engaged with the world of the play.

During the second act, I felt consistenly removed by the jumping from scene to scene especially when a set changeover was required. I found myself wondering "Well, the purpose of that scene was obvious, couldn't it have been done as part of another scene" and after I while my "storytelling mind" started playing around with trying to knit the various scenes together. I still liked the second act I just thought it didn't work as well and wasn't as engaging as the first act.

I also wonder if this was a deliberate choice and that more modern playwrights use the "modern, multi-scene, jumpy" style because this is the way they see the world now. Our attention is constantly jumping from item to item - multiple commitments, multiple roles - and we see this expressed in the fast, quick-cut style of television and movies. Maybe writers raised in this world are starting to incorporate this fast-paced style into their plays.

The acting was, for the most part, enjoyable good. Amy Resnick was definitely my favorite, as she is very good with the "non-lines" part of acting: the facial expressions, utterances, and body language that help flesh out a character and make them more real. David Silberman did some good work as the cross-dressing housekeeper in the first act, but seemed to revert more to his standard "David Silberman character" (a la the domineering father in "Cocktail Hour") in the second act. Zac Jaffee and Dana Brooke Friedman play the son and fiancee in the first act and another adopting couple in the second act. Again, I liked them more in the first act and in the second act Dana was closer to her standard "Dana Brooke Friedman" character (see the mom in "Bright Ideas").

I did like the play overall and thought it was a good production. I would recommend it to others.

Sac News & Review review of the production

Reviews of a production in NYC five years ago: CurtainUp and NY Times.

Next month: "The Book of Liz" by David and Amy Sedaris. Oh. My. God. This should be hilarious. CurtainUp review of a production in NYC
Tags: life, theatre

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