SABRINA FAIR theatre review

by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach opened the final show of the 2009-2010 season last weekend. This delightful comedy, filled with romance, will continue until June 19th at 106 Sixth Street North. Call 249-0289 for reservations and information.
The 1953 play by Samuel Taylor ran for a respectable 318 performances on Broadway, and then faded away, overshadowed by Billy Wilder’s wonderful 1954 movie version, starring Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. There are multiple copies of the popular movie available in our local library system plus the movie shows up regularly on cable channels.
Having recently seen both the movie and the play, the dual critics agree that the play is much funnier than the movie and quite different in several ways which we will not disclose. We suggest that you first see the play, then the movie; you will be delighted with both.
Sabrina Fair is the story of the daughter of Fairchild, who has been chauffeur to the wealthy Larrabee family of Long Island for thirty years. Sabrina grew up as a shy, introverted young girl on the family’s palatial estate. She returns from Paris, after working there for the past five years, transformed into a charming, poised, sophisticated beauty.
Sabrina immediately catches the eyes of the two sons of the family. David (Jack Bisson), the personable younger son, wants to marry her almost immediately. Linus Jr. (Seth Langner) is the family business tycoon and too manipulative to admit he is also in love with her. Things get even more complicated when her former French lover Paul (Samuel Willis), pursues her. Three men? One woman? Can you guess who will win?
In the middle of this are the bewildered parents, Linus Sr. (Mark Wright) and Maude (Holly Gutshall), who consider it a social blunder for their sons to become involved with the daughter of a servant. They are hilarious as a couple and provide much of the humor of the play. Wright is awesome as the pompous father who is retired and spends his time going to funerals as a hobby.
Another unofficial member of the family is Robyn Neal as Aunt Julia, an old college friend of Mrs. Larrabee, who adds a lot of humor with her sharp tongue as she says whatever comes to her mind.
Mr. Taylor’s well written play gives even the supporting characters their moment in the sun.
Suzanne Scheuble does a short cameo at the opening of the play as the very young Sabrina. Maggie O’Connor has some hilarious moments as the family maid, Margaret. Foundation Academy graduate Chelsae Newberry made her Players’ debut as the classy society girl, Gretchen, son David’s ex-wife. Brooks Studier, Morgan Williams, Brit Colgan and Nathan Dennis are dressed to nines playing the younger set guests at the big house party who are much more interested in amour than hors d’oeuvres.
Paul Rowe plays the role of the quiet and attentive chauffeur for most of the play and then springs a big surprise on everyone in one of the final scenes in Act II.
Director Zeina Salame has done an outstanding job in directing and especially in the casting of every role in this play, and her choice of Caiti Wiggins as the leading lady could not have been better. Ms. Wiggins has all the charm, personality, and elegance to make Sabrina sizzle. She will melt your heart just as she melts the hearts of all those she encounters in the play. This Douglas Anderson graduate is a delight and you will love her.
The acting by all the cast is excellent and the wonderful mix of theatre veterans and new up and coming actors makes this a great evening of theatre in a play that is well worth seeing.
Another star of this show is the marvelous set by Director Salame and Lee Hamby with the evocative lighting design by Jim Wiggins. The setting was the spacious outdoor living space surrounding the Larabee mansion. White marble flooring, white walls, and white furniture, enlivened with large pots of colorful flowers, reflected all the elegance and wealth of the family.
As if Holly Gutshall didn’t have enough to do as President of Players by the Sea, playing a major role in this production, she also designed the fabulous costumes, which ranged from bright flowered dresses to boating attire to formal wear and, for Sabrina, fashionable black and white attire.
This is a clever and witty comedy from the1950s; a time when playwrights did not resort to four letter words to express themselves. Yes, back in the days when people had manners. A very funny show, don’t miss it. Visit www.playersbythesea.org for more information.

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october, 2021

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