I saw SARGE at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival last June and I was too emotional to write a proper review. I won’t go into all the personal reasons why this show touched me so, but I can tell you that Christine Dye’s performance of a woman so steeped in denial – and loyalty – that she can’t see what’s right in front of her face rings as true as any performance you are likely to see anywhere. Ever.
In my non-theatre going life I am a professional clinical counselor and while we’re trained to have unconditional positive regard for our clients, one of my big red buttons is parents choosing a spouse, partner, lover, or anyone over their children. Sexual abuse – or abuse of any kind for that matter – is real and people like “Dot” (aka “Sarge”) who have what we in my business call “limited insight” are as guilty as those who commit the acts themselves. But instead of writing and portraying the character as dumb or evil, Kevin Crowley and Christine Dye have created a sympathetic woman. I wasn’t angry at her despite her ostrich-like position; instead I understood why she might not be able to accept the things that are true about her husband. I think that’s marvelous art. Examining an issue so complex so well takes talented, masterful hands. Both Crowley and Dye should be commended for their work.
Told in three scenes, Dye makes you forget that she’s the only woman on stage as she tells her story to a neighbor, a police officer, and in the courtroom. Her facial expressions, the quiver of her chin, the tremors in her hands, and the sharp defense of her husband is balanced by the soft, southern Tennessee charm so ingrained in her. Dye’s performance – and I’ve now seen it twice many months apart – is still the best work I’ve ever seen on stage by any actor or actress.
It’s an emotional performance; Dye is still crying during the bows. She connects to Sarge deeply, you can tell, and I can’t praise her work enough. I know Crowley considers her a partner in this show and he should; his words are good but in her hands they ring true.
Go see the show and be moved, as I was. And also, if you know someone or their child is being abused please don’t ignore it. Call 241-KIDS, call the police, and don’t be afraid to get involved. If SARGE teaches us anything, it’s that sometimes the best people are blind to the darkness around them.
You still have two chances (Sunday at 3pm and Monday at 8pm) to catch the show (paired with another one-act by Crowley called THE MONKEY’S PAW) at the Clifton Performance Theatre at 404 Ludlow in Clifton’s Gaslight District. More information can be found here.