All about Sarah

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By Kirsten Laskey

When I was a kid, I listened to the story, “Sarah, Plain and Tall” on audio tape. Later in sixth-grade, I read the book. I always loved the story, especially the part about the family sliding into the hay in the barn.

So I was rather happy that the Los Alamos Little Theater decided to produce a theatrical version of this story.

Like some fans of a certain work, I tend to get a little uptight when others take artistic liberties from the original story. In this case, LALT decided to create some animosity between Sarah and the little girl, Anna.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here is a synopsis. The Whitting family has suffered from the death of Mrs. Whitting, who was the mother of Caleb and his older sister Anna and wife to Jacob Whitting. To replace that hole in the family, Jacob decides to advertise for a new wife and Sarah Wheaton answers the ad. It is decided that Sarah will travel from her hometown in Maine to the Whitting’s home in Kansas for a month. The play reveals what occurs between the Whitting family and their visitor during this month.

Now, in the book, both Anna and Caleb are hopeful for Sarah to fill their mother’s shoes whereas in the play, Anna is reluctant to accept Sarah.

At intermission, I thought, “Why did they create this friction? That’s not in the book!”

But as the show continued, I found myself learning from the play’s message – sometimes you have to give new ideas, as well as new people, a chance. Change can actually be beneficial.

So therefore, I applaud LALT. The cast and crew introduced some new ideas and even some new characters to this story and as a result I received a lesson in artistic creativity, which is sometimes you have to take risks and accept changes if you want to learn anything new.

The cast delivers this lesson wonderfully. Sylvie Johnson as headstrong Sarah successfully balances Sarah’s toughness with her loving nature. She effectively shows how her character heals the wounds the Whitting family has suffered.

Sequoyah Adams-Rice as Caleb effortlessly makes his lovable character come to life. It is amazing; it appears as if the character just jumped from the pages of the book and into a real-life person. 

Stacia Paglieri, who plays young Anna, and Alice Corrigan as adult Anna bring a lot of complexity to their character. Paglieri and Corrigan reveal their character’s pain that she was angry with her mother when she died as well as her mixed feelings towards Sarah.

Larry Gibbons and Roxanne Tapia as Matthew and Maggie Nordstrom add quite a lot of charm to the story. I particularly like it when Gibbon’s character describes his own personal ad for a wife and Tapia’s reaction to Sarah’s suggestion to shake up the dinner schedule.

Likewise, I enjoy Warren Houghteling’s and Grace Louise’s portrayal of William and Meg Wheaton. Louise’s character is good-naturedly nosy but her husband (Houghteling) is a sweet enough to just lightly poke fun at her.

Another real highlight for me is the old-fashion songs that are included in the script. In the book, singing is a real delight for the Whitting family. It is discussed how before their mother’s death, the family was always singing, but when she died, the songs passed away, too.

In the play, Sarah brings song back into the family. She teachers Anna and Caleb a few songs she learned growing up. Besides, great acting, I have to say the actors have very good singing voices.

Besides its sounds, the play’s appearance is also attractive. The mural of a prairie landscape, created by Ryszard Wasilewski, Manny Baca, Mimi Adams and Shay Lower is beautiful. In the book, Sarah talks about how the land in Kansas rolls a little like the sea and this mural certainly captures this statement.

Loida Garcia, Valerie Adams, Heather Jones, Adams, Johnson, Louise, Lily Johnson and John Faucett did a great job with dressing everyone.

The little girls look sweet in their old-fashion dresses and aprons while the Whitting and Nordstrom men look sharp in their dungarees and plaid shirts.

Additionally, I love when you first see Sarah, she is wearing fishing waders. Since this play is set in the early 1900s, the costumers very cleverly shown you that Sarah is a woman ahead of her time.