by Dick Kerekes
Theatre Jacksonville opened its third show of the season last weekend with Sam Bobrick’s Getting Sara Married. This delightful light comedy will run through November at the Harold K. Smith Playhouse, 2032 San Marco Blvd. Call 396-4425 for reservations.
Although this is a new play, it is really an old fashioned l970s type comedy. It came from the pen of a long time playwright who cut his teeth on television comedy on shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour just to name a few. If you are a theatre old timer, you may have even seen a couple of plays he co-authored that were done in this city. Murder at the Howard Johnson’s (l979) and Wally’s Café, both played at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre with the Tony Award winning actor Robert Morse as the lead in both.
Variations of this plot have been used in a number of plays, movies and sit-coms. Single female in 30s, career minded, never married with a relative that wants to see them married and proceeds to play matchmaker in their own way. It works both ways of course, single male in same situation.
Getting Sara Married has a unique twist to this standard plot; one that takes this into the realm of a farce. Aunt Martha (Gayle Featheringill) figures her 30ish niece Sara (Sarah Boone), is too career minded as an attorney and needs to be married. She is always searching for the perfect husband for the reluctant Sarah.
When she meets a young financial advisor named Brandon (Jason Collins), she feels she has found the answer to end Sara’s unmarried state. She approaches Brandon trying to set up a date, but he is resistive, so it is time for action. Lovely Martha hires a one man delivery service, Noogie Malloy (Thomas Trauger) who bops Brandon over the head in an elevator at his job, and carts poor Brandon unconscious over to Sarah’s apartment, special delivery.
Sara, realizing the legal problems Martha’s actions could cause, lets Brandon stay on the couch, until he recovers. The fun begins when Brandon at first, cannot remember his name, occupation or anything much. (You already see where this is going don’t you?) Brandon is already engaged to the lovely Heather (Tracy Olin), which further complicated things when he missed a dinner date and winds up spending the night at Sara’s because he is allergic to the snack she serves him.
Ok, that is all I will tell you. You will have to make the rest of this journey yourself by seeing the show. I will tell you that others get bonked and delivered to this apartment.
The show will remind you of a Neil Simon comedy and that is not all bad since he is the best in the business. There are lots of one liner zingers. For those of you who care, there is not a dirty word of any kind uttered by anyone. Isn’t that refreshing? What raises this play a cut above many like it, is the outstanding casting and direction by Michelle Svenson Simkulet and the performances by the actors.
Every once in a while Theatre Jacksonville’s Executive Director Sarah Boone will perform a role, just to see how life is on the other side of the lights. Ms. Boone started her theatre career on this very stage at the age of 16 in The Cat Princess, and has many credits in both dramatic and singing roles all over the country. No, she is not thinking of leaving her role as the leader of what is, in my opinion, probably one of the model community theatre programs in the country.
Ms. Boone is sufficiently stuffy in act one, as the serious New York attorney. Her cold façade melts so delightfully in Act II, when cupid has obviously bitten.
Jason Collins makes his TJ debut with this role. Most of his stage work has been with Players by the Sea. I have seen Mr. Collins in a number of roles, and he is always outstanding. Act I, could be very static since it is very talky to start with but Collin’s interaction with Ms. Boone is marvelous. As a confused male with a concussion, he bounces around like a ping pong ball in a wind tunnel and is truly funny.
Tom Traguer is one of Jacksonville’s very talented actors. Who else could play the role of a man whose occupation is to kidnap and deliver people and be totally likable? A very inventive fellow, Noogie, who uses a dolly to cart about his captured clients and rides the subway. How good is he? Aunt Martha has him on retainer!!
Tracy Olin is more often than not, playing leading roles in plays, but she loves to perform and we love watching her. She is perfect for this role, and we can understand poor Brandon’s frustration trying to choose between two attractive and intelligent women like Heather and Sara.
Gayle Featheringill is a Jacksonville Beach resident who loves to perform at Theatre Jacksonville and this is her sixth play at the San Marco landmark. She won TJ’s Best Supporting Actress award for Crossing Delaney. The role of Aunt Martha is rather unique for Gayle, because she never sets foot on the stage during the entire play. She talks by phone to niece Sara and Aunt Martha is up on a platform above and behind the set. We never see her really clearly since she is behind a scrim to give us the feeling of distance and space. (Wow, Gayle, isn’t it great to not have to worry about makeup!) We do get to see her very wild clothing at the curtain call.
The final character in the play is Derek Dixon, who plays a chiropractor. It is amazing he does this role without saying a single line. What a way to make your stage debut.
Wagoner and Wagoner, Kelly and Jeffery, the husband and wife set designing, light designing and technical direction team, have really created a beautiful Upper East End New York apartment. Can I spend the night there before you tear it down? I am sure you will agree, it is gorgeous.
Tracy Olin coordinated the costumes, which are contemporary fashions. Heather always dresses in browns, Sara in slacks, Brandon in suits and Noogie in a jump suit with his logo on the back. My only concern with costumes is in Act 1. The third scene takes place on another day, and although Brandon had changed clothing, neither of the women had! Women wearing the same clothing, TWO DAYS IN A ROW? Heaven forbid what is this world coming to?
Theatre Jax always has food on opening nights. If you have never attended on this special evening, try it. Bonwyn Benot created the deli style food offerings for this show and her tuna salad was to die for.
This is a bright and breezy evening of delightful theatre, and one that will not strain your brain, just make you laugh. It is fun and a great change of pace from the daily news and the rest of the world. Don’t miss it.
Getting Sara Married
by Dick Kerekes