All Over the Map
Victory in Los Angeles, Cadillac in Chicago, and The Evildoers in New Haven.
Sachs has found success in engaging an American audience in South African politics, the looming subject behind many of Fugard's works, including Victory. The play follows Vicky and Freddie, two black South Africans who burglarize the home of Lionel, an elderly white South African who formerly employed Vicky's late mother as a housekeeper. Responding to the notion that Fugard's work is too audience-specific, Sachs rebuts, "The brilliance of Athol's writing is that it is specifically about a time and place and yet it is intensely universal."
For Sachs, there is nothing lost in translation for this American premiere. "Liberal, well-meaning whites in South Africa and in the U.S. believe we can have personal relationships with the man who cuts our lawn or the woman who does our laundry. We don't understand why they don't feel the same way. I think that is the big realization that Lionel has. There is much good in the country, but there are moments when we are still reminded of racism, prejudice, and despair."
"In America, there's a stereotype about salespeople and used car salespeople in particular," says Jepsen, alluding to the usually negative portrayal of people in that profession as little more than con artists. However, his central character, Howard Austin, lives by an admirable moral and ethical code, and truly believes that he is helping his customers and providing good service -- until the sale of a Cadillac on the last selling day of the month challenges his sense of ethics. "There's lots at stake for this one sale for three or four different people," says Jepsen. "And this higher morality that Howard talks about gets put to the test when his own butt is on the line."
Since his play is set in a sales environment, Jepsen is braced for comparisons to David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. "It's unfortunate that there's probably only two popular plays about salespeople in American history," he jokes. "But Cadillac has got a much different voice and story, and I think stands on its own."
But the story is hardly about possessions, says the playwright; it's about people. "The play is about marriage, which becomes a metaphor for various kinds of connection or disconnection in the world and in life. By bringing these characters into focus, we get inside of another person's life and really humanize it," says Adjmi. "The theater is a place that really can expand our capacity for empathy."
Adjmi is happy that the directorial reins were handed to Rebecca Bayla Taichman, who joined the project as director when it went to the Sundance Theatre Lab in 2006. Having helmed productions of plays such as The Scene, she is no stranger to this kind of multi-faceted dramatic action. "I could not have imagined a more generous, thrilling, incisive director than Rebecca," says Adjmi. "My work is very musical, and she really respects and understands the text as a score. "