Cadence Theatre’s ‘Sight Unseen’ proves to be a witty relationship drama
Cadence Theatre Company’s most recent show, Sight Unseen by Donald Margulies and directed by Rusty Wilson, centers around Jonathan Waxman, a successful artist from Brooklyn, who is visiting London for an exhibition of his work.
While in the UK Jonathan, played by Neil Brookshire, decides to call on his former muse and girlfriend, Patricia, played by Laine Satterfield, who lives in the country in nearby Norfolk and is pursuing a career as an archaeologist.
About 15 years have passed since the breakup and Patricia is now married to Nick, also an archaeologist and played by the magnificent Andrew Firda, whom it is later revealed that Patricia married solely to remain in the UK after completing school, as their marriage is rather cold.
The two acts, in eight scenes, transition back and forth through time, which I rather like. Because of this, Margulies is able to provide a visual for Jonathan and Patricia’s relationship as a point of reference for the audience and the actors.
I believe Brookshire and Satterfield are able add so much depth to their on-stage relationship because of their ability to interact in scenes from when they were together as lovers.
Pretty soon after Jonathan arrives, he realizes dropping in on his ex may not have been such a brilliant idea.
There is definite tension between the two as it is clear that Patricia, and Jonathan, both feel that the end of their relationship did not have much closure. And Nick, plopped uncomfortably right in the middle of it all, is left feeling inadequate in Jonathan’s presence due to the acclaim Jonathan’s work has received and his lack of confidence about his marriage to Patricia.
Andrew Firda is fantastic as Nick. He plays the character as a bit strange and sullen and you sympathize with him a bit as he questions, and at times criticizes, Jonathan and his work to try and regain some sort of control over his relationship and the awkward situation his wife has put him in by extending an invite to her former lover.
Satterfield gives a charming performance as Patricia. Satterfield is always so natural in her roles; I admire the ease in which she transitions into each character she portrays. This role could have been particularly challenging due to the requirement that Satterfield portray herself as a young girl and then a thirty-something woman and not in that particular order.
Brookshire has a bit more difficulty in this transition and I definitely felt like he could have pushed harder to create a more clear delineation between his younger and older selves. I also had a bit of a problem with Brookshire’s accent, he is supposed to be from Brooklyn but sounds like he came straight out of Boston.
Spliced into the narrative are a couple of scenes where Jonathan is being interviewed by a German journalist Grete, played by Heather Falks. While I understand that these scenes are included to make a comment on Jonathan’s struggles between his religion and fame, I feel that they were a bit unnecessary and I would have rather continued to watch the interactions between the principle characters.
As Wilson stated in the director’s notes, this is a “relationship play.” And that is on many levels. Margulies very wittingly comments on several relationships we have in lives; with lovers, our art, our religion, our finances, etc. While the first act drags a little, the second pulls you back in as you wait to see what will happen, and what already has happened, to these well-constructed and interesting characters.
The set by Benjamin Burke is incredibly cool. Cadence is probably the most creative theatre company I have seen in respect to their utilization of the small space of the Theatre Gym, as many of their shows involve large, moving panels and walls, which so perfectly separate scenes they are breathtaking. For this production, Burke has created placed the set on a “lazy Susan” type revolving stage, which serves to quickly and seamlessly change acts.
Sight Unseen is playing at Theatre Gym at VA REP through November 8th.
www.cadencetheatre.org for showtimes and ticket information.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
The University of Richmond continues to be a place where exciting projects benefit student and audience alike.November 21, 2016
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