by: Sandi Durell
The Vineyard Theatre dubs “Arlington” a ‘new music theatre piece.’ I thought of it as a contemporary operetta as it is sung through in approximately 60 minutes with almost no dialogue. The book and lyrics are by Victor Lodato (3F,4F; The Eviction) with music by Polly Pen (Bed and Sofa; Goblin Market) and directed by Carolyn Cantor (The Great God Pan).
In a living room setting by Dane Laffrey, we meet an all too sugary sweet Sara Jane (Alexandra Silber – Broadway debut Master Class with Tyne Daly) who is surviving her husband Jerry’s deployment in the war. She’s cheery as she sings about the flowers she’s arranging and her mother, who has just had plastic surgery, due shortly for a visit, and the glorious sunny day (“we don’t give the sun enough credit”). Sara is charming but has her head in the clouds.
Behind a scrim we see pianist (a very accomplished Ben Moss) who accompanies Silber and also duets with her later in the piece as he takes on the role of Jerry and her deceased father. The intensity of the piece progresses as Sara moves along recounting the beauty of the love relationship with Jerry and his sexual appetite. Silber moves from singing about these aspects to the realities and horrors of war, the slaying of women and children – “little black bugs. . . we burned them in a ditch” They have always been a military family, her brother Joe having died for the cause (“my brother didn’t die prettily. In fact we didn’t get all of him back.”)
“History. We’re born in history . . . we aren’t free, we’ve made a pact.” (words her father spoke)
This is a tumultuous piece of work as we watch the sunny upbeat Sara move from happy to sad to torment. Silber has a lovely and lilting soprano voice and her enactment is moving as she shares her mental and emotional wanderings. The piece itself is one more cry for sanity in a world gone mad. Maybe, eventually, someone will listen.
As I watched, I questioned this piece presented on the main stage at Vineyard. It seemed more suitable for a small black box theater as the hour began to drag on.
“Arlington” – thru March 23rd – Vineyard Theatre, 108 E. 15th St. NYC