Play review: ‘Sam and Carol: A Play Where Everything…’ is alive and honest
When I think “2-Person show, minimal set, minimal lighting, 29 different characters” I shiver in fear and hide from a potential 4 hours of boring. David L. Robbins’ Sam and Carol: A play where everything is true; was not boring. It was alive and honest. It was an enchanting story of two souls and how they affected the people around them.
Arriving at the play’s performance made immediately me think of the great challenge it posed to it’s actors. Two people?! – Playing how many characters? The stage is obviously set for you to focus on the actors… In the round, looking at a grey, textured platform with a table and a chair evenly spaced in the platform.
An empty set is terrifying in some ways, but in reality it’s there for the actor to harvest his/her moment on stage without thinking about a distracting set. The characters become the main focus and only their life on stage carries you from moment to moment.
Eva DeVirgillis (top image) and Nicklas Aliff (below image left) both gave superb performances. Every character was different from the next, completely alive in their own way. Sometimes they played the same character as a child, then as an adult – but the soul of the character was still there. I never blinked an eye wondering who was who or where we were in the play.
Both actors met their challenge and surpassed my expectations. My favorite parts were when they would leave their little platform to wander around the audience and interact with them – offering some tea and cake or poking fun at what they were wearing. It kept the space active and fun.
Jan Powell, the director, truly afforded her players the opportunity to fill the stage with beautiful performances and ran a clean production of the work. The lighting and the set were running – purposefully – at a bear minimum, but that really let the costumes shine through. The costumes were fantastically detailed and helped the actor come alive in their skin (although I would hate to be doing those quickchanges all night!)
Although the play seems to be about David L. Robbins’ parents’ lives, you never actually see Sam or Carol (minus a little picture). Their characters never appear because as you watch the play you realize it isn’t about them. It’s about everyone’s family and their memories with their loved ones.
This convention, never seeing the titular Sam and Carol, allows the audience member to fill in the gaps. To see themselves, or their parents, or grandparents in Sam and Carol’s position. I found myself thinking of my grandparents who share a similar story to the play’s.
Afterword, I thought about all the little things my grandfather does to purposefully affect the people around him in a positive way. It made me think of the way I value the prosperity of love and family.
Robbins’ was at the performance the night I was there and his presence in the space was notable… with his music being played at the start of the play, the play being about his parents, and the time Aliff singled out David in the audience for a moment – it’s hard to think the play isn’t about him, but it is not about David, It’s about this generation of people who connected with each other and impacted or had their lives impacted in some specific way.
David was just the voice for this play, but this play was very much about the community.
Most of the production was set in Richmond, and it truly does resemble the acceptance you can feel when you meet someone loving in a place you can call home.
Sam and Carol: A Play Where Everything Is True runs through April 25th at the Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond Centerstage.
Tickets can be purchased here.
There is simply no separation of audience from stage… just as there are no bystanders to the horrors of war.March 15, 2017
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