According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Does Anyone Know Sarah Paisner?

Does Anyone Know Sarah Paisner? is a mystery play of sorts. As a concept, Does Anyone Know Sarah Paisner? is compelling, but Jennifer Lane’s actual script doesn’t do enough.

Review by Amanda Cooper

Who doesn’t enjoy the occasional foray into the craigslist missed connections, or personals section of the site? It’s not about finding a possible match for ourselves, but rather fulfilling our voyeuristic tendencies – those same parts of us that just can’t help but eavesdrop on that obvious first date a couple barstools away. And so Does Anyone Know Sarah Paisner? starts out in a fairly entertaining, promising manner: A young woman, Ginger, sits in a ratty apartment with her laptop, cruising craigslist. The entries she reads are acted out behind shadow screens by a chorus of performers.

But this momentum is not sustained throughout this one act mystery play of sorts. Early on, the bloody ghost of a young woman pops out from behind unpacked boxes, plaguing our anti-heroine Ginger, who is clearly guilt-stricken by this apparition’s presence. It becomes clear that there is some sort of identity mystery going on between these two. The ghost, unconvincingly, says she is Sarah Paisner, yet the sound of the name seems to torture Ginger. And Ginger, who doesn’t seem capable of hurting a fly, has a strangely bloodstained sweatshirt she quickly hides when her roommate and boyfriend walk in the door.

As a concept, Does Anyone Know Sarah Paisner? is compelling – what pushes a person to run away from their life, to want to become a wholly different person altogether? And can we change who we are, or are we too rooted in our past, and in our identity, no matter how deeply we want out? The exploration of these concepts is what keeps this production semi-afloat, but Jennifer Lane’s actual script doesn’t do enough. Too many times, the “mystery” is revealed to the viewer, while we are still left in the dark about much of Ginger’s past, and how she came to be the internet voyeur she is.

The performances feel uneven, but this may be more due to the directing: much time seemed to have been spent on developing Ginger, played sensitively by Kathryn Merry, while the others felt like fragments of people. Perhaps this was all part of Director Elyzabeth Gorman’s plan - to have those surrounding the main character feel sketched, partial. But the result is a play that feels unfinished and, ultimately, unrelatable.

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