Out Of Sight
by John Secor
Philadelphia Editor-in-Chief
Thursday May 17, 2007

If you stick with the synopsis, Sara Felder’s "Out Of Sight" contains elements of a classical drama. There’s the mother/daughter issue. There’s the struggle to understand, become a part of and, in some respects, rebel against the Jewish experience.
But when you learn there will be juggling and shadow puppetry in this one-woman tour de force, you can’t help but think, "Mmmmmmkay."

Fortunately, for Felder, the juggling and the puppetry do a wonderful job of augmenting the wildly entertaining Out Of Sight.
Felder’s playwrighting and acting abilities shine brightly in the small, quaint 45-seat Shubin Theatre.

And her circus-like juggling acumen is icing on the cake. You can’t falling in love with Felder, who announces before the show begins some "special events" coming up at the Shubin.
"Next week, there will be a happy hour for Jews and Arabs," she announces, reading from a small crumpled piece of paper she retrieved from her pocket. "We hope to put the PAL in Palestinian and BREW in Hebrew." Her announcements seamlessly segue to the opening scene where she portrays her legally blind mother, a devoted opera fan who begins important conversations just before the show begins.

While Felder’s mother is your typical Brooklyn Jewish mother, folding one arm, clutching her collar with the other and calling her offspring "Sweet-haht," there is a familiarity that makes you forget Felder is playing her. In the first scene, the legally blind mother does a thigh-slapping slapstick routine as she attempts to view the MET with multiple eyeglasses and opera glasses.

Yet, the play takes on serious tones as Felder begins to accept her identity: she comes out as a lesbian at 16 and decides to convince her mother that part of Felder’s coming-of-age experience is an all-too-necessary trip to Israel, where she will participate in folk dancing. This creates conflict because the mother doesn’t want Felder going over there. "It’s too dangerous," the mother reminds her. They begin an argument at the beginning of, you guessed it, the opera. Finally, the mother relents and Felder gets to go.

It is here where Felder begins to question everything: whether it is Israel’s right to occupy Palestinian land or whether her mother actually became blind by looking at the solar eclipse. It also is where Felder falls in love with a Jewish woman from the southern U.S. Felder recreates of meeting Gail. The lights come down and a jazzy Duke Ellington song comes up. It is Felder on stage with an iridescent ball that rolls playfully and sensually across her hands and arms. The routine is mesmerizing and convinces the audience that she will fall head over heels for this woman.

While in Israel, a few things happen. Again, the story gets its punch through Felder’s juggling and tricks. They accentuate Felder’s main point that things aren’t always what you see them to be.

Never, at any point, does Out Of Sight take on the contrived, schmaltzy, side-show schtick. Felder’s storytelling is fluid, coherent and always entertaining. Even the shadow puppetry, which has an child-like ad lib feel, keeps you attentive and giggling. You get the sense Felder is in touch with her inner child as she retells the story how her mother became blind. The puppetry, though artfully done, is at times silly and poignant. Felder continues to ask the question: Is what we’re seeing really text?

Out Of Sight has a very polished feel to it. Then again, it should. Felder has performed and fine-tuned the work for some time now. Director David O’Connor and Felder have spent months smoothing the transitions and finding ways to make it an entertaining multi-media experience.

This isn’t just a story about mothers and daughters, or lesbians, or Jewish lesbians, or the where we fit in with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s about all of the above, and how one woman attempts to keep these identities afloat while making sense of it all.
Out Of Sight needs to be seen. Not just by Philadephia audiences, either.

Thursday through Saturday performances are 8 p.m. Sunday performances run at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For more information about the show, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com

John Secor has worked with mainstream press for nearly 20 years. He is a proud resident of Philadelphia.