BWW Review: RICHARD & JANE & DICK & SALLY Celebrates its World Premiere at Baltimore Center Stage
The new play RICHARD & JANE & DICK & SALLY, written by Noah Diaz and directed by Taylor Reynolds, had its world premiere at Baltimore Center Stage Thursday evening. The play is a simultaneously quirky and heartfelt look at grief, loss and accessibility. While the Dick & Jane stories, the characters names and play's title have been derived from, have been around for decades, this play is entirely new and definitely of today. It depicts a family dealing with grief, past and future, and the struggles of those with differing abilities.
Baltimore Center Stage's commitment to producing works with diverse casts and modern stories, continues in this production. I knew very little going in. That's the fun of new works; being taken by surprise. However, even with that expectation, I hadn't expected to be so moved by what was on stage. The story is so affecting. What the characters are dealing with - illness, loss, love, communication - are all universal. We all have these in our lives, and yet our loved ones are there to help us through - sometimes just as clumsily as those in this piece.
And if that isn't enough, Diaz also provides an up-close examination of disability and accessibility in the form of Sally (the incredible Treshelle Edmond). Should those with a disability like deafness, try to fit in with the world around them because it's easier for everyone else, or choose a different path that makes them happier? The night I attended, the performance was sign-language interpreted, and some in the deaf community were also in attendance. It was beautiful to see the interpreters translate the work in way I was not accustomed to, and to see their reactions to the material.
What truly makes this production something special though, is the incredible cast. From the moment they stepped on the stage, I was enthralled. It's hard to explain why, other than for some reason, they seemed like a real family unit - father, "mother", aunt and children - even the family pup. Each actor is diverse, and different, but as a cast they seemed to fit together perfectly like puzzle pieces. I think that is what's so affecting about this story, the emotion that this "family" invokes is only fully on display, if the cast works together. And I can attest, this cast understands that completely.
The set designed by Stephanie Osin Cohen, invokes a common 50s style bungalow complete with artificial grass and a charcoal grill. Same goes for the costumes, designed by Alicia J. Austin. These choices are intricate details to show that Richard's family is almost stuck in a time they're too scared or unprepared to leave. You begin to realize this when Jane arrives with modern clothing and technology. This small nuance, is yet another way that the designers and creatives bring to light a fully realized piece with humor and heart.
Personally, as I mentioned earlier, I was greatly affected by the play. I lost someone close to me just this week, so the themes of love and loss hit me hard. Though, I have a feeling even without that pain of loss hanging over me, I'm fairly sure I would have been similarly affected by this gorgeous piece. In short, RICHARD & JANE & DICK & SALLY is lovingly produced by a team of creatives and actors that have created a fully-realized world to explore universal themes. What more can you ask for a night at the theatre?
RICHARD & JANE & DICK & SALLY plays Baltimore Center Stage (700 N. Calvert Street | Baltimore MD, 21202) through March 1, 2020.
Tickets can be purchased at centerstage.org