‘Sam and Carol: a play where everything is true’ creates relatable, local, and ‘true’ story
“I tried to show what I call the ‘majesty of the mundane,’” said Dave Robbins, writer of Sam and Carol: a play where everything is true.
Robbins wrote Sam and Carol based on the lives of his parents. The “trick” to this play, he said, is that there are 31 scenes, 29 different characters but none of them are the Sam and Carol.
In fact, all of the roles are played by only two actors: Nicklas Aliff and Eva DeVirgilis, who Robbins called two very “elastic” and “talented” people.
The play could be seen as a tribute to his parents, but Robbins says that isn’t the point.
“It is not about Sam and Carol. It’s not about my parents, or me, it’s about your parents,” Robbins said. “It’s about the relationship. The relationships that we all form in the world between people that we grew up with and people that we encounter for five, six, seven seconds.”
Dr. Jan Powell, director of the play, said she understood this meaning from Robbins, making her perfect to lead the production.
“This really celebrates the ordinary. When I first read it I said ‘this reminds me so much of my parents,’” she said.
“And Dave (Robbins) said that was the highest compliment he could hope for because he believes that what his parents lived through is something that everybody faces in one way or another.”
The play begins at Carol’s funeral, about ten years after Sam’s death. The eulogizer says today would be a good day to tell your stories about them.
The subheading for this work is “the play where everything is true.” Each story actually happened; starting with the way Sam and Carol met.
Sam was on the base at Pearl Harbor during World War II and he was playing poker with another soldier. That soldier dropped a picture of his girlfriend on the table by accident. Sam talked him into betting his girlfriend and won. He started writing to 16-year-old Carol in Pittsburgh.
She, unbeknownst to him, enlisted and got stationed at Pearl Harbor. She organized a dance for all of the guys on the base, found him and tapped him on the shoulder. And there she was: the girl he’d been writing to for the last six months.
The play takes the audience all over, including to Sandston, a suburb of Richmond, which is where Robbins and his three siblings grew up.
Because of the play’s emphasis on community, Powell set the play in a round so the audience also feels a part of it.
She said the power and beauty of the play could be found in its simplicity.
“It’s epic in a very small and simple way. It’s beautiful and it’s beautifully, beautifully written in these little vignettes,” Powell said.
“It feels to me like it’s little speeches, little moments of memory that are brought back of two very ordinary and yet extraordinary lives.”
Robbins said everybody should be able to relate to the stories of his family. His parents, especially his mother, were anything but perfect.
“She was bat-shit crazy,” Robbins said. “And just magnificent in so many ways and problematic in so many ways and in the ways she was magnificent and in the ways she was problematic, she’s just like your parents. Just like your mom. Just like everybody’s mom. And that’s what I tried to put on stage.”
The triumphs of his family are commonplace, but nonetheless extraordinary.
“I’m doubting whether your parents were, you know, a Clinton or Bush, right? They’re just like my folks. But you know what? Raising a family and doing the right thing and holding down a couple jobs and paying the bills and making sure the kids get off to school and making sure they go to college and running a household. That’ s courage. That’s, again, the majesty of the mundane.”
The play will run April 2-25 at the Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage. Tickets can be purchased here.
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