sau·da·de, sou?däd?/, noun , a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia.
Saudade; the one where I miss you is a Fringe rarity: an uplifting drama. Andrew Reid’s charming script balances tragedy with innocence and optimism. This bright and airy exploration of loss, directed by Madison Landis, plays at the Eastman Theatre through July 23.
Reid and Landis are using a time-tested strategy: take a barebones production of a new play to Fringe and asses whether it has legs. Saudade certainly has legs. The touching, minimal script would not be out of place at local theatres like the Hub or Forum. And while you can’t help but wonder what this story would look like with a huge production value, it stands perfectly well here in a Fringe setting.
When you enter the theatre, acoustic guitar covers of top forty songs lull you into a happy place. The pre-show music is a glimpse into the people putting on the show: hip, young artists who are less concerned with being shockingly original than with earnestly telling a simple story.
The show is broken down into seven parts, connected vignettes that tell the story of a family over three generations. The actors take turns playing a kaleidoscope of overlapping characters. Each generation has echoes of the one before, as happy accidents become family tradition, and history invariably repeats itself. The bobbing and weaving of actors through characters has a clear message: this timeless story could be about anyone, anywhere. Multiple actors play the same role over different time periods.
Saudade; the one where I miss you
Written by Andrew Reid
Details and tickets
One of my favorite moments was “Part 3: rainy walks,” where a cute story device lets us see a relationship grow over time. “Part 4: home is smooth, home is magical” used lightning fast actor transitions to efficiently show two estranged family members’ reunion. And I don’t want to spoil anything, but “Part 6: here’s your crown” left the audience an ocean of sniffles and tears.
The cohesive design elements brought to mind a gentle rainy day. Adam Lemos’ costumes were shades of blue and neutrals. Small details like glasses or flannel shirts were added to simple ensembles to distinguish between characters. Maggie Reigel’s props had a timeless, meta-theatrical quality. For example, a glass jar had no identifying features aside from a utilitarian label reading PEANUT BUTTER. Morgan Goodman’s projected illustrations do the work of establishing locations for each scene. The style is a digital cousin of paper cutouts, with bold silhouettes and color blocks.
The six-person cast, evenly split between men and women, easily slides between characters. While Oscar Salvador, Derek Yost, and Gabriel Zak give likeable, touching performances, the ladies of Saudade really shine. Each woman is well cast, not as a specific character, but as a stage of life for multiple characters. Stephanie Risch, with her bouncy energy, handles the scenes of childhood with charm. She doesn’t fall into the baby-talk-trap of adults playing kids, but nails the wonder and curiosity of being a kid. Emily Berry handles the snarky teenage scenes, playing the outsize emotions of a teenager with empathy for someone awash in hormones. Maggie Dickinson handles the adult scenes with frankness and humor beyond her years.
As any theatremaker will tell you, a phenomenal script doesn’t guarantee a perfect production. At 90 minutes, this show is on the long side for Fringe, and could stand to cut 15 minutes. Volume issues plague certain scenes and actors. Subtitles of the lines ran above the projections for the entire show. I can see why the choice was made: when multiple actors play the same roles, pick up new characters, and jump around in time, it’s helpful to see who’s playing what in huge letters on the back wall. In an ideal world, subtitles would also help compensate for volume issues. Unfortunately, the actors paraphrased their lines through much of the play, while the subtitles laid bare their mistakes.
The everyman quality of Saudade’s characters and story smartly lets the audience project their own lives and losses onto the show. The characters are broad enough to recognize yourself in them, but specific enough to not be a bore. I challenge anyone who sees the show to not feel personally affected by the moments of loss onstage.
The beautiful conclusion of Saudade is that life is cyclical. In Andrew Reid’s play, the universe does not bend toward chaos, but love.
Saudade; the one where I miss you by Andrew Reid . Directed by Madison Landis . Assistant Directed by: Hollyann Bucci . Cast: Emily Berry, Maggie Dickinson, Stephanie Risch, Oscar Salvador, Derek Yost, Gabriel Zak. Projection Design: Morgan Goodman . Costume Design: Adam Lemos . Set/Props/Lighting Design: Maggie Riegel , Produced by: Landis / Reid . Reviewed by Ruthie Rado.