THE LOOK OF LOVE? Sherba and Duckworth.
With their usual flair, 2nd Story Theatre is staging Sabrina Fair, the 1953 light romance by Samuel A. Taylor that provided the template for the film adaptation titled Sabrina. It's running through September 2, directed with his customary finesse by Ed Shea.
If anyone out there has not seen the 1954 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, add it to your Netflix queue right now. In the snappy, endearing romp, director Billy Wilder choreographed a delightful minuet of sly romantic sidesteps. (Don't get confused and pick up the 1995 version, in which a self-satisfied Julia Ormond makes us wonder what Harrison Ford saw in her.)
In both the play and film, Sabrina Fairchild is the daughter of a chauffeur who grew up in that subservient role on a sprawling Long Island estate. She is not really Cinderella, though, unless you're talking about a version where Cindy goes off to finishing school and comes back to correct the grammar of her stepsisters. For Sabrina has been working in Paris for five years, returning a sophisticated young lady, self-possessed and charming.
Played with winsome vitality by Gabby Sherba, she is finally noticed by the two young men on the estate whom she grew up with. She always had a crush on David Larrabee (Jeff Church), and he's properly wide-eyed and drop-jawed at her transformation. But when older brother Linus Larrabee (Alex Duckworth) first notices her, he briskly and casually says, "Hi, Sabrina," which prompts an intentional bop on the head with her hatbox as she spins around and exits in a huff.
The play is much more complex than Wilder's film, which slimmed the plot until it flew as straight as Cupid's arrow. For example, in addition to Maude Larrabee (Isabel O'Donnell), the mother of the young men, there is her visiting friend Julia Ward McKinlock (Paula Faber), occasionally giving Sabrina sound advice. There's even a wealthy Frenchman (Tim White) in hot pursuit. Sabrina's widower father, known only as Fairchild (Vince Petronio), is kindly but hapless, having taken that job so he'd have time to read (he's currently on novel 6000-something).
There is an overt sibling rivalry between the brothers, with Linus recently dating David's ex-wife Gretchen (Allison Crews), but she quickly passes through the play having served that simple purpose. (Similarly decorative, but with occasional lines in several amusing walk-on scenes, is Linus Larrabee Sr., whom Bob Colonna gives an entertaining gruffness. His hobby is attending funerals, which cheer him up.) Since we learn more about Linus than his brother, at first he seems to be a much more well-rounded characterization; however, he's drawn in a single dimension: "ruthless" is how his mother describes him, not without affection. A recent article in Fortune magazine lauded his success in growing a small family enterprise into Larrabee Industries, a major corporation. A related attribute, as he describes to Sabrina, is that he doesn't believe in romantic love or marriage. We'll see about that.
When Sabrina first bursts onto the patio in haute couture (thank you, costume designer Ron Cesario), she commences a barely interrupted soliloquy of hyper-energetic enthusiasm; we all but expect her to start speaking in tongues. Sherba makes that scene fly and also keeps us interested when, two weeks later, Sabrina is upset at being ignored, no longer the center of attention. As she says to Linus, the two things she learned in Paris were to develop her appetites and to discipline them.