Saving Friendship First – St. Sophia
by Marcina Zaccaria
Is the New York International Fringe Festival more than an actor’s gym? In O’ Save Us, St. Sophia a group of students from the BFA program at The New School for Drama, put together a show that exposes, well, dirty dishes.
Not only is that the name of the theater company that produced the work, but dirty dishes are some of the actual props onstage in O’ Save Us St. Sophia. If the NY International Fringe Festival is a place where ensembles get together to experiment, make their work seen, and find ways to improve, then O Save Us Saint Sophia is exactly that kind of actor’s gym.
Director Sophia Lana Cohen Smith has done a fine job corralling this ensemble and making a statement. Like an old-school method actor’s exercise, the show doesn’t hesitate to cast group members in the role of therapist or savior when dealing with difficult issues like addiction and schizophrenia. Though the play, by Mikey Craighead (who also plays Shepard), is sometimes about stretching the limits, the performance style doesn’t really bring the audience to a new place. Oftentimes, the actors look too comfortable on stage. There is camaraderie instead of bravura.
Some of the stronger points in the script include four actresses representing the lead female. Sophia, Lovey, Hope, and Faith (played by Sophie Parens, Rebecca Bialostozky, Katy Roth, Emily Ashenden) are all dressed in white. Accents on the costumes lean toward Village chic. The female characters are in great contrast to Gregg (Zak Kelley), Mark (Julian Thomas), and Shepard who find themselves arguing, confronting their demons and winding through the set (designed by Kevin Klakouski). In a world of crumpled papers and extraordinary banners, we trace actors through emotional states; slowly, the beginning of beginning and the end of the end are revealed. The show could have been supported by a deeper sense of theatricality; and occasionally the acting style in O Save Us Saint Sophia has a tendency toward afterschool special. In looking ahead, perhaps work from this ensemble would include more metaphor and a more defined and precise sense of heightened realism.
However, as an actor’s gym and a healing gesture toward friendship and greater understanding, O’ Save Us St. Sophia certainly had its say at the New York International Fringe Festival.
O Save Us St. Sophia, produced by Dirty Dishes Theatre Company, has performances at the Robert Moss Theater (located at 440 Lafayette Street) through August 29th. The New York International Fringe Festival is running until August 30th. Contact www.FringeNYC.org for additional details.