The Cell is a remarkably intimate space to watch Jackie Hoffman work her magic. Those who have seen her - live in the theater, singing at Joe’s Pub or in many television appearances - appreciate her great talent in overwhelming the stage while not overwhelming her costars. In Fruma-Sarah (Waiting in the Wings), her myriad of talents are seen through a completely different prism. What if this multi-talented woman had been born into a different, and lesser, life.
|Fruma-Sarah (Waiting In The Wings); Jackie Hoffman and Kelly Kingsella|
In Furma-Sarah, Ms. Hoffman plays Ariana Russo, an ex-housewife devoted to community theater in central New Jersey - which is kind of like Broadway’s cousin, once removed. For those that don’t know, or don’t remember, the character of Fruma-Sarah is a comedic cameo in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. You don’t have to remember, or even like, Fiddler on the Roof (something I rarely admit to) in order to love this show. The main references are to the songs from the show, which are part of the American zeitgeist.
Ariana is hilariously bitter about the politics of local theater, her failed marriage and still bitter, albeit less hilariously, about how life has retreated from her. Ariana is locked into a flying harness, waiting until she enters as the dream witch, emerging from the wings, high above stage left. Meanwhile she holds court over a captive stage manager – a wonderful Kella Kingsella who grows during the performance. Ariana, enjoying her forced audience of one, rifts on marriage, life in the suburbs and her delightfully petty feuds with the local gate-keepers of community theater.
|Jackie Hoffman and Kelly Kingsella|
It is a treat to watch Kelly Kingsella, as stage manager Margo, try to keep Ariana quiet, semi-sober and awake until her entrance at 1:07 in the show. Fruma-Sarah (Waiting in the Wings) runs in real time as Fiddler in the Roof drags on off-stage, which means both Ariana and Margo have a deadline. Will Ariana fly on time? Will Margo’s walls come down? These two women not only command the stage, they invest the audience in the outcome. You can feel the tension as the audience realizes how much time is left.
The writing by E. Dale Smith is astounding. He captures the joy, wonder, and disappointment of theater life, whether on Broadway or in a small theatre in central New Jersey. The direction by Braden M Burns is fast paced but emotional, funny, and sensitive. He unrolls the layers of the character and her isolation, slowly, lovingly and with a perfect cast. I also have to call out the lighting by Dan Alaimo, which brings backstage during a show to life.
Furma-Sarah (Waiting in the Wings)
Director: Braden M Burns | Playwright: E. Dale Smith
Cast: Jackie Hoffman, Kelly Kinsella | Website