SABRINA FAIR is a Cinderella story that rises above the fairy tale with a droll wit. The Village Playbox of Haddon Heights did a pretty good job of bringing the play to life on the stage.
Sabrina is the chauffeur’s daughter who manages to go away to a private women’s college and work for the U.S. government in Paris. She returns after five years to see if the “David” who she had a crush on when she left is the same “David” she could love romantically today. She has become an appealing, beautiful and refined woman—no longer a stereotype of the help. Her appearance rocks the world of her father’s high society employers who think she wants to marry “David.” To complicate matters, her French boyfriend flies to New York to get her back. She discovers it is “Linus,” the family’s rebellious older brother, she is drawn to.
The play by Samuel Taylor debuted on Broadway on November 11, 1953 and New York Times reviewer, Brooks Atkinson, praised the clever dialogue for being high comedy, “One of the most attractive qualities of SABRINA FAIR is the opportunity it provides for enjoying the foibles and crises of some fairly scrupulous human beings.”
Coincidentally, the play, aptly directed by Steve Allen, played on the same date, sixty or so years later. And, if you think you know this story, you probably do, or at least some variation of it. There were at least two films made in the U.S. based on the play just called Sabrina, while the film made in Great Britain kept the original title. The best known in the U.S. starred William Holden as “David,” Humphrey Bogart as “Linus” and Audrey Hepburn as “Sabrina.” I only mention this because audience members my age will make that connection, but I hope they will not compare the two. It is a good film with definite plot changes; however, SABRINA FAIR was made for the stage. The Village Playbox made it work as it was intended.
The set was creatively designed with four entrances and exits, which, of course, works well on so small a stage, appearing to be a veranda where all the scenes take place. Fortunately, all twelve actors did not appear on stage until the curtain call.
I’m sure the subject matter of societal clashing was more shocking in 1953, but none of the characters are inherently bad people; they just need to be instructed in the right way to see how they should live their lives. Or should they? There is some very clever dialogue that makes us think.
Aside from the occasional stumble on lines from a character or two, and a few slow moments, the show on Village Playbox’s stage kept the audience fairly glued to their seats.
There were outstanding performances by Kellie Cooper who played “Sabrina,” Chuck Maienza as “Linus, Jr.” and Elaine Bellin who played “Maude Larrabee”. The other acting performances were fine as well, but the aforementioned were right on all the time. Overall, it was fun–a very good time had by all.
By Samuel Taylor
Directed by Steve Allen
November 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 2012
The Village Playbox
First Presbyterian Church
Green Street at 7th Avenue
Haddon Heights, NJ 08035