SALLY'S GONE, SHE LEFT HER NAME by Russell Davis; directed by Stan Wojewodski Jr.; scenery by Hugh Landwehr; costumes by Linda Fisher; lighting by Bonnie Ann Brown; with Elizabeth Franz, Talia Balsam, Frederick Coffin, Paul McCrane and Peggy Cosgrove.
With "Sally's Gone, She Left Her Name," playwright Russell Davis may have set the all-time record for most kitchen appliances on a stage. Refrigerator, washer, dryer, food processor, trash compactor, blender, coffee maker -- they're all here, framed in gleaming white Formica.
They're all here, but they're not always in the same place. Between the scenes of this low-key but amiable surrealist comedy, currently at Baltimore's Center Stage, the set is turned around on u and we see the same kitchen and the same general sequence of events from alternating points of view. These events relate to the breakup of a marriage and the secret ambitions and dreads of four ordinary, affluent Americans -- Henry and Cynthia and their teen-age children Sally and Christopher. The kitchen is where these people meet and, invariably, fail to meet.
Yes, "Sally's Gone" is about a failue of communication. That's the bad news. The good news is Davis' nimble, funny, Pinteresque dialogue, with the unspoken feelings of the characters leaping in and out of the spaces between the words.
"I want to talk about college," says Sally to her father.
"Oh, is that what's bothering you?" he says smugly.
"No," she says, "I just want to talk about it."
Director Stan Wojewodski Jr. keeps the comedy purring at a gentle pace, and the five actors maintain an even, never-too-urgent mood. Paul McCrane, who plays Christopher in a "Breaking Away" T-shirt, will be recognized as the pale, red-haired boy from the movie "Fame," and he is a very capable actor, although perhaps not quite persuasive as a 15-year-old. The really memorable performance here, however, is Talia Balsam's wry, easygoing, sexy portrayal of Sally.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth Franz and Federick Coffin fail to bring any comparable humor or energy to the characters of the parents -- but it may be the script's fault more than theirs. Despite the title, the burden of the play falls more on Cynthia, the mother, than the rest of the family. The title, for elusive reasons, is the complete test of a farewell note left not by Sally but by Cynthia. But we just don't learn enough, or care enough, about the mother early in the play to attach great significance to her departure. So in the end, "Sally's Gone" adds up to something less than the sum of its parts.