Originally commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse for its 2017 Performance Outreach Program (POP), #SuperShinySarah received its second incarnation, as a staged reading, by Topanga Actors Company (TAC) at Topanga Library on April 28 and 29.
Writer, director and actor in this production, Wesley Middleton, told the audience at the start that it’s a work in progress so she has had the chance to revise the script.
Recommended for children aged six and up, there was plenty to keep adults entertained in this perfectly timed and paced play that runs just under an hour. Who doesn’t know a youngster who is obsessed with social media?
Eleven-year-old Sara, played with terrific timing by Rosie Narasaki, longs to escape into the fabulous online world of @PoshKidsofPicstapost where photos, fame, and followers are paramount. When Sara wishes she can jump into her heroine Shoppy Goddess’s world, she does, and discovers that a super shiny life is not so perfect after all.
The play really gets into its stride once we enter this super shiny world. Sara’s friend, Francesca, is played by Linda Molnar who has her best lines as Shoppy Goddess telling Sara her four rules for success:
1. Never complain
2. Always look perfect
3. Never discuss what you can’t afford
4. Always say yes to a challenge
Henry David Miller charms and delights as Sara’s brother Rez and Pictapost megastar Posh Prince. Miller conveys wit and wisdom as both characters and will surely be given meatier roles in future TAC productions.
Narasaki, too, shows enormous promise. She nailed the role of Sara here. A note of caution to future TAC actors: Narasaki held her script in a big binder which proved cumbersome to manage. The others did better with their stapled-in-one-corner scripts.
Linda Molnar is always a safe pair of hands for TAC. She played her two young roles with confidence and charm.
It was playwright Middleton, however, who stole the show as Maya (Sara and Rez’s mom) and villainous Bella Blackthorn. Baddies get all the best lines.
Blackthorn had stolen a song that Maya had written for Sara when she was born. The song became a massive hit that shot Blackthorn into super stardom. Sara knows about this because she read her mom’s diary. The theft made Maya stop writing, and she has struggled ever since to keep a roof over her family’s head.
Sara’s and Rez’s father is a musician away on tour, and we never meet him. Might the price Maya paid for having her song stolen be even greater if she was a single mom?
Sara unmasks Bella to be the thieving diva that she is and mom is convinced to write another song when the kids wish themselves back to their real world. Our young characters realize that being cool with millions of followers isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and everyone hugs it out. Even if only for an hour, the audience was entertained enough to put their phones away and watch live theater.
Topanga resident Wesley Middleton has been writing plays for young audiences since 1998. Tomato Plant Girl, Degas’ Little Dancer, and UNSORTED have been produced by theaters throughout the U.S. Middleton clearly has a talent for writing young dialogue and will likely achieve her dream to be a TV writer. Middleton should add acting to her wish list; she has major acting chops.
Bill Hendra delivered his two lines as an announcer with aplomb. Judith Hendra, TAC co-founder with Paula LaBrot, produced #SuperShinySarah and did a fine job as stage manager. Sound engineer was Rama Kingston.
Topanga Actors Company, a 501 c 3 not for profit, was founded in 2015 to bring contemporary plays to a Topanga audience.
Their next production is a staged reading of A Doll’s House Part 2. Lucas Hnath’s play picks up the story 15 years after Nora Helmer slams the door in perhaps the most famous exit in theater history.
Save the Date: May 19-20 at the Topanga Library, A Doll’s House Part 2 starts at 2 p.m. Admission is Free.
The Topanga Library is located at 122 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290. For more information: (310) 455-3480; colapublib.org.