Sabrina Fair, Ford's Theatre


That's the word I kept coming back to after seeing Ford's production of "Sabrina Fair" this Sunday night. Was my world irrevocably altered by what I saw? Hardly. Was that the point? Not at all. "Sabrina Fair" tells a fun, romantic story, one that we aren't quite as familiar with as we might think from watching two separate film adaptations.

Of course, this is a "Sabrina" with a twist. Where Samuel A. Taylor wrote a story of unlikely love that crossed the strict social lines of the North Shore of Long Island, NY, director Stephen Rayne gives us a story of racial divides. While at first, I doubted what seemed to be a gimmick, by intermission, I was sold on the device. However far we've come since the play was written, we can see where a Larrabee might be alarmed at the idea of this Sabrina coming to dinner in 1953. The stakes are upped and we can buy the tension that runs underneath the play. Of course, it also makes familial/societal objection into the big point of the evening, but you have to admit- the play DOES work well that way.

It's worth saying- this isn't the "Sabrina" of Bogart and Hepburn, nor is it the story of Ormond and Ford. Todd Gearhart doesn't need to be compared to Bogart's Linus, because it just isn't the same character- same goes for Tom Story's David. Gearhart does possess whatever indefinable quality it is that means he can walk onstage and EMBODY the Fifties Leading Man Type. Tom Story is a delight as ever, giving a David that we can all fall for along the ride, blessed with good humor and the desire for something more from his life. As Sabrina, Susan Heyward is a lovely, excited presence on stage, brimming with energy and utterly believable as someone who could captivate a jaded 1950s bachelor with aplomb.

One of the greatest treats of this production is the ALARMINGLY good supporting cast. As "Aunt" Julia McKlintock, Kimberly Schraf deserves special mention- whereas many of the characters on stage are recognizable types, Schraf gives the audience a recognizable PERSON, complex and fully realized. It's a wonderful testament to what actors can do. Helen Hedward also does wonderful work as Maude Larrabee, but really, I want to mention the REST of the supporting cast. The fantastic Donna Migliaccio plays Margaret the housekeeper? Casie Platt, so good as Harper in Forum's extraordinary "Angels in America" last season, as Jessie the upstairs maid? Are you kidding me? Tonya Beckman Ross steals the show in five minutes as Gretchen. It's rather fantastic to get to see such talented people all brought together, producing such a fun evening of theatre.

Because in the end, it's exactly that- this is FUN. I get to root for the characters not just to wind up with who they should be with, but also to just be HAPPY because I LIKE THEM so terribly much. I get to marvel at another gorgeous Dan Conway set, and if I'm less than impressed with Pat Collins's unsubtle lighting design, I want to steal half of Sabrina's costumes, designed by Wade Laboissonniere.

My one major quibble with the whole affair- why on EARTH has the marketing department of Ford's decided to sell "Sabrina Fair" with an image straight of out "Breakfast at Tiffany's"? Take a look at your program or at any of the banners hanging outside around Metro Center, and you see the hat, little black dress, and string of pearls sported in an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT Audrey Hepburn movie. Not on, Ford's, and in fact, kind of annoying for those of us who actually know enough to get the reference.

That being said, you really should get yourself over to Ford's. This is a LARK and I had a lovely, lovely evening.


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