by Roger Nasser · October 16, 2013
Indie Artists on New Plays #11: Roger Nasser looks at Sarah Flood in Salem Mass playing at The Flea
Pop culture has always had a fascination with witches. Even today there are at least two shows on television that deal with witches. There are many reasons why witches are the subject of many books and shows- they are entertaining and can be either funny or scary characters. And they have a place in our collected history, be it the Spanish Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials. Adriano Shaplin’s new play Sarah Flood In Salem Mass currently at The Flea Theater ( performed by the amazing BATS) deals with the latter. It is about the events leading to the Salem witch trials. And a girl from the future- Sarah Flood- that wants to go back in time to prevent the witch hunt from happening in the first place. Like Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, it is based on historical characters and events and also like The Crucible it changes some of these characters to serve the purpose of the play. For instance - the character Becky Nurse- based on Rebecca Nurse is in history and in the Miller play a religious pillar of the community but in Sarah Flood... she seems more like a bit of an outcast. And in the Miller play the main Putnam girl is Ruth Putnam but in Sarah Flood.. the main Putnam child is Ann Jr-which is historically accurate-Ann Putnam Jr was one of the only one's of the "afflicted girls" that apologized to the community for her part in The Salem Witch Trials - so I was really excited to see that she was a character in the play.
Shaplin's play is a very interesting piece. It give a new perspective to the goings on in Salem before the witch trials and the themes that he touched upon really helped set the climate for the impending low point in American history that ensued. While keeping true to some of the historical accuracies of the time he touched upon some universal themes that are still plaguing us as a society. I also really liked the time traveller element to it so we get to experience the story from the people that were living it and an outsider who wants to help. The script is fun and exciting too. And there are some very humorous moments mixed in with the tense moments. There were some plot points that I felt I didn't follow fully but all in all it was a really enjoyable show.
When the house opens and the audience is let in we are treated to a really awesome pre-show. We get to see the citizens of Salem doing interesting movements ( The movement work in this play is really great!) and we get to hear about the future from Sarah Flood and her friend Juyoung. So make sure you get there to see enough of the pre-show; it is a real treat and puts you in the right head space to really appreciate the play. The set design by Caitlin Lainoff and the lights by Dante Olivia Smith really help bring the world of the play to life. Whether it is the future or the woods of Salem the set elements really help to build both worlds. The sound design by Adriano Shaplin also aid in transforming The Flea into the world of the play.
Rebecca Wright's direction is inspiring! She brought a lot of really great elements together that make Sarah Flood In Salem Mass a very enjoyable and thought provoking piece. And the movement in the piece is really amazing. Whether the actors are praying with the congregation or moving in the woods or even acting as neighboring beavers, their synchronized movements are something of wonder. I don't think however that the moments of presentational performance worked all of the time. And the performances - so great! The BATS are a really talented and fierce ensemble. The are so committed to the world that they are inhabiting and are precise in their synchronized movements. I especially love the way that they go from town folk to beaver -it was effortless and really fun to watch. They work so well as an ensemble but still each has a moment to shine. They should all be commended for their work on Sarah Flood In Salem Mass. There are many standouts; too many to call out in fact. Favorites were: Matthew Cox as Narrator is so charming and charismatic- I would listen to any story he would tell! Kate Thulin is really endearing as our time travelling Sarah Flood. Glenna Grant, a pleasure to watch as Ann Putnam Sr. and Michelle Silvani as Ann Putnam Jr has such a likeable quality about her--she will win you over the minute she enters the stage.
Sarah Flood In Salem Mass is a really enjoyable evening of theater. The story is well paced and fun. The set, lights and sound really set the stage for Salem in the 1690s.The direction is on point and the cast is full of really engaging performers. It plays at The Flea Theater until October 26- so see it while you can!