Sarah Jones’ “Sell/Buy/Date”

If you get a chance to see Sarah Jones in her new one-person, multi-character show Sell/Buy/Date, take it!  sell buyThe opportunity might be either in the last few days of her workshop performances ending July 31 at Berkeley Rep or in New York at Manhattan Theatre Club opening in previews September 27, 2016 – or wherever she may go after that.

Sarah Jones is one of the very few performers who can really pull off a compelling metamorphosis from one character to another, with her toolbox of myriad accents, varying body language, voice tones,  and overall affect, without resorting to overly broad or stereotypical gestures.  Her people are young and old, male and female, of many ethnicities and national origins.  All are recognizable and authentic.  As one well-titled article in the New York Times said about her years ago, “All Her Stage Is A World”.

Sell/Buy/Date presents monologues inspired by real-life experiences of people affected by the commercial sex industry and explores various perspectives regarding “sex care workers”, the legalization of prostitution, the fallacy of “choice” by participants in the industry and other aspects of the issue.  Her novel approach to frame this discussion is to present a history class from the future where technology has allowed recording of voices, feelings and memories of interview subjects from the past.  From an elderly Jewish New York housewife remembering trying to find online a simple film of “normal” people making love, to a successful Russian immigrant “raunchrepreneur” to a 17-year old Southern “courtesan” in training, her characters are full-blown, real and affecting.

Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones

Before the performance I saw, the Associate Director told us that Sarah had been refining the script that very day and would be working out some brand new material that evening.  I love witnessing this early raw work on a new theatre piece. The artist is still enveloped in the passion of creation and the excitement flowing between the performer and audience was palpable.  She was telling some riveting stories around an important message and doing it well. This special new works energy is why I like to get it while it’s hot.

It is fairly common for a work in development to change from performance to performance; there are often quite a lot of changes or even an unfinished script to start with.    An unknown piece can sometimes make it hard to fill a house, so a producing theatre is betting on the talent of the playwright and the partnership of the playwright and the director.  A new work by Sarah Jones, directed by Carolyn Cantor, is not too risky a bet.  Sarah Jones won Tony and Obie awards for writing and performing her piece Bridge & Tunnel off and on Broadway.  Carolyn Cantor is an award-winning director who specializes in directing new works in New York and at regional theatres around the country.   But all new works have special needs and present certain challenges, and I am so grateful to those theatres who take the risks of supporting the development of new work.

This one is a good one.

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