You’ll find a photograph on your chair when you walk into “A Year of Giving,” an engaging and often funny play based on the blog of local thinker and philanthropist Reed Sandridge. Each photograph depicts a person — one of 365 individuals who received $10 each from Sandridge over the course of a memorable year.
As Sandridge, who appears in the play, explains in a disarmingly low-key manner, he was unemployed when he came up with his experiment in social engagement. (He gave money only to strangers.) He documented his progress on his blog (yearofiving.org), which has been turned into a play at the Capital Fringe Festival.
Part chatty lecture by Sandridge, part succinct theatrical reenactments (with Sandridge playing himself), “A Year of Giving” has a satisfying flow, with just enough suspense, humor, poignancy and grit. Actors Devon DuPay, Steve Langley and Patrick Miller channel various idiosyncratic personalities who took, or in some cases, rudely refused, the money. Among the more memorable turns, Langley plays Knox, a shoeshine entrepreneur who solemnly warns Sandridge to stay away from peanut chews for the sake of his health; Miller portrays D.C. Central Kitchen founder Robert Egger, who sees the $10 as fueling a cycle of economic and social improvement (“Good plus gooder equals goodest!”); and DuPay depicts a woman who tore up her $10 bill, sparking outrage in the blogosphere.
Over the course of the play, the actors attach photos of the individuals to a cat’s cradle of string stretched across stage: The chain of faces slowly becomes an eloquent symbol of Sandridge’s effort to combat social defeatism and urban anonymity.