By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission
No matter how you cut it, family is like nothing else in the world. Each family is crazy in their own way and we never know what another group of related people are doing behind closed doors, but Baltimore Center Stage’s latest offering, Rickard & Jane & Dick & Sally by Noah Diaz, Directed by Taylor Reynolds, gives us a glimpse into the lives of a seemingly ordinary family with extraordinary circumstances. With a Eugene O’Neill meets Tennessee Williams feel, it makes for an engaging and entertaining evening at the theatre.
In a nutshell, Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally concerns itself with a seemingly normal family headed by a widowed father, Richard, who’s trying to keep everything in control while raising two young kids, Dick and Sally, one of whom is deaf, and who seems to be stuck in the past and tradition, so much so as to living in his dead parents’ house. Enter the sister, Jane, who left to make her own way and is bringing in outside influences that shake the fragile hold Richard has on his life and family. Throw in a family pet who just wants to belong and bits and pieces from the old Fun with Dick and Jane book series, you have a story that is funny, poignant, irritating, and caring all at once… you know, all the feelings you get with family.
There is a lot going on in this completely original, fresh 90-minute roller coaster of humor, sadness, realism, and absurdity, but, believe me, it’s well worth it. It’s heavy, make no mistake. You will have a whirlwind of emotion and it’s a rare story that almost everyone on this earth can relate making it a phenomenal piece of theatre. Diaz gives us a lot of information in this short time, touching on the bonds we have with people both present and absent, as well as those who may not be human, and it’s all played out on a phenomenal set designed by Stephanie Osin Cohen. Her use of levels and open space is spot on and moves the story along beautifully and effectively.
Along with Cohen’s Scenic Design, Reza Behjat’s Lighting and Frederick Kennedy’s Sound work in tandem to transport the audience to various times and locations flawlessly. Kennedy’s efforts are especially noticeable as the sound and action move along together, hand in hand, sometimes unsettling so, with a rich original score that hits you, when you’re not expecting it, masked in an upbeat, bright sound with a creepy undertone. Hats off to Kennedy for his work.
Costume Design by Alicia J. Austin is spot on and effective adding to the story and not distracting from it, as should be. Each character has his or her own style and Austin’s attention to detail is to be commended.
Direction by Taylor Reynolds is superb as she presents this story in snapshots and vignettes with smooth transitions that are easy to follow and she seems to have a deep comprehension of this text and a clear vision. Taylor’s understanding of the more linear parts contrasting with the surreal parts of this text is clear and her presentation of both is clean and concise making for a solid showing.
Performance-wise, highlights of this production are Noah Averbach-Katz as Spot and Treshelle Edmond as Sally. Edmond pulls us in with her character and we’re rooting for her from the moment she sets foot on stage playing Sally with an innocence and coming-of-age that is impeccably balanced. Averbach-Katz as the family pet, gives such a natural delivery of the text and completely embodies this role, he has the opportunity to outshine the rest of this ensemble, but does not, making his performance an absolute standout. He is s certainly one to watch in this production.
Neimah Djourabchi takes on the role Richard and Michelle Beck tackles the role of Jane, the estranged, but loving brother and sister who are trying to reconcile the past, present, and future with each other. Djourabchi, at first, seems scripted and stiff, but it’s clear this character choice is the genius of his character choice. Once you get into the rhythm of his performance, you realize it’s a beautiful, poignant performance that makes you feel for the character. In the same vein, Beck portrays Jane as a hard-nosed bitch at first, but then the gradual transition Beck masterfully undergoes is brilliant. Her character’s at-arms-length attitude slowly strips away and she ends up being a character to which the audience can relate. Kudos to both for strong, solid performances.
Jay Cobián as Dick Jr., at times, is hard to connect with as he seems to be playing this character over the top, but his handling of this character is careful enough that you feel for him and want to help and Vanessa Kai as Mother is elegant and purposeful as she glides across the stage seemingly effortlessly.
Final Thought… Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally is a poignant, thoughtful look at a family in crisis and it shows the difficulty of moving on as well as the clash of the old and the new. I cried. It’s not something I do often, but I did with this one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hard ass and I can get all the feels, but I pride myself on being able to keep my composure, but this is the first piece in a long time that had me straight up crying in my seat. The performances are spot on, the Set Design, Lighting Design, and Sound Design all enhance the story and the staging is on point. This is seriously not a production you want to miss this season so get your tickets now.
This is what I thought of Baltimore Center Stage’s production of Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally will play through March 1 at Baltimore Center Stage, 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-332-0033 or you can purchase them online.
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