Sandra – Like a Made-for-Television Movie

“I feel like disappearing from my life…not from you. I love you. If I disappear, you’ll probably disappear too…” Ethan tells best friend Sandra before departing for what she assumes is a vacation in Mexico. Leaving her a CD of his haunting piano music, he then vanishes without a trace. Weeks pass. Friends are concerned. Sandra is frightened.

Detectives imply that the gay thirty-something man likely had an encounter with a pick-up. This hardly precludes violence. They ask about drugs. Ethan has been 12 years sober, Sandra protests. He’s clean. (That attention and money are spent by New York police on tracing a single gay man in another country is not believable.) She drowns her anxiety in a bottle of wine and wakes to find she made a reservation to fly and booked hotel.

Sandra travels south without a plan. She meets a few fellow New Yorkers. Discovery of washed up bottles with notes in them, one with Ethan’s handwriting (New York authorities actually check this!), take her down a rabbit hole. A tattooed man with shoulder length blonde hair might have met Ethan. Recently separated, she begins an affair with a seductive stranger. Wait – is he involved with the mystery?

Sandra doggedly becomes an ersatz detective. Convinced she’d feel it if Ethan were, in fact, dead, the heroine puts herself in a dangerous situation.

To say this is not David Cale’s finest hour (twenty) is an understatement. A playwright (and actor) who’s given us any number of intriguing pieces here offers a predictable, seemingly made-for-television plot without insight or originality.

Marjan Neshat (Sandra) is unbelievable and unsympathetic, partly due to script, partly to direction. I recall no such issue with her turn in Saving Kabul.

Director Leigh Silverman gives us an over animated woman whose speed of delivery and flippancy doesn’t manifest credible recollection. Gestures are alike for depiction of male and female characters. Accents wobble. Silverman did an infinitely better job with Cale’s Harry Clarke, but that was also a better play.

Rachel Hauck’s isolated, raised room (like the most recent iteration of Company) confines Sandra to her own strong beliefs.

Costume design by Linda Cho is ugly.
Ethan’s music by Matthew Dean Marsh is quite beautiful.
Thom Weaver’s Lighting Design is eloquent, painterly.

Photos by Carol Rosegg

The world premiere of Sandra by David Cale
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Music-Matthew Dean Marsh

Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street
Through December 11, 2022

About Alix Cohen (1433 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.