Much like real-life adolescence, there’s just enough hard-won truth waiting at the end of Mickey & Sage to make it worth some tough going. This is a play that gets better.
Directed by its writer, Sara Farrington, this four-scene, 60-minute piece lays bare the way that the minor differences that kids note about their playmates’ home lives take on greater weight and power as childhood ends. They come to resemble fate: Sage’s mom feeds her seaweed chips, Mickey’s folks prefer Doritos, and just guess which of the two is college-bound.
Set in the backyard of nine-year-old Sage (Erin Mallon), the play follows three afternoon playdates between the children in its title—playdates whose raison d’être is some sad, grown-up folly they’re just a touch too young to suss out. The kids’ chatter rings true—of the “messy and gross” kitchen of a neighbor they spy on, Sage insists, “He must not have a chorewheel”—but there’s too much of it to cram comfortably into the running time, so Mallon and Jack Fredrick, who plays the rougher-edged Mickey, have been directed to galumph through it at breakneck speed. And to shout. The youthful boisterousness that director Farrington is after quickly grows wearying. Fortunately, the appearance of a troubled neighbor (Don Carter) that the kids peep at—and whom Mickey, in a sharp bit of expectation-thwarting, cruelly harasses—tempers the mood and elevates the hi-jinx to drama.
Farrington and set designer Cecilia R. Durbin have worked up a clever conceit, opening scenes and indicating the passage of time by having Sage pick props and costumes for the next in a series of onstage backpacks, each less childishly decorated than the previous.
Farrington and set designer Cecilia R. Durbin have worked up a clever conceit: To both open each new scene and indicate the passage of time, Sage pulls out props and costumes from a series of onstage backpacks, each one less childishly decorated than the previous. The backyard fence set, meanwhile, creates a sense of both freedom and entrapment. When confined together, Mickey—the temperamental son of a world-class shit-heel—and Sage—a yoga-loving inheritor of her mother’s great expectations—share this world, but outside it they don’t. Kudos to Frederick for resisting the urge to give this dickish, damaged, going-noplace American boy the charisma that his downtrodden suburban existence would have beaten out of him.