Say Yes to Sarah Shippobotham’s New Play at Salt Lake Acting Company

Sarah Shippobotham is Sîan Jones in the one-person play she wrote, now at Salt Lake Acting Company

Can I Say Yes to That Dress is a brand new play, written in two exceptional creative bursts ten years apart, which Salt Lake audiences are fortunate to have premiered at a moment in time when love and laughter are welcome distractions. While it sprints through five hundred years of poetic and dramatic contemplation of the human pursuit of intimacy, it leavens this high art with sufficient reference to popular culture — novels, films, food, and sports figuring high on the list — that an hour spent in a commercial fitting room, an otherwise claustrophobic space enlarged in practice to permit the audience access to its secrets, stretches imaginatively to accommodate decades of the life of its sole presence, the bride-to-be Sîan Jones, who in a funny, yet blistering nonstop monologue sets out to reconcile a lifetime as a hopeless romantic — an admitted redundancy — with the possession of sufficient intelligence to see through the indispensable illusions that, while they enable her to laugh at life’s inevitable disappointments, haven’t been able to get her out of the fitting room to face whatever follows.

Future scholars will need to explain why it took so long for someone to realize that the opening self-portrait of Richard the Third, Shakespeare’s notoriously evil king, needs so little modification to become the self-image of a 52 year old  — “early fifties,” she reminds herself — unmarried woman possessed by an unhelpful body image: something far more common in today’s high pressure, fully commodified world than hunchback kings have ever been. Sîan’s extensive citation calls attention to Richard’s routinely overlooked complaint, that no romantic interest could survive his deformity were he not otherwise compensated, which Sîan feels she is not. In fact, she survived for years by pretending with her mother to prepare for her wedding, all the while gaming the system by shopping for the event with no intention to buy. Those richly recollected excursions, recalled down to the French names they invented for the bride and her betrothed after the English version paled, call into question the current, allegedly true edition.

As she reminds us that even Richard III’s problems were to be solved by a man — the “Son of York” who turns his “winter of discontent” into “glorious summer” — enriched with references to the plots and characters of romantic comedies from every genre, including the actors who played them, Sîan gets around to telling the story of Roger, who offered to fulfill her dreams long after she’d despaired of them, and who is the reason she’s shopping for the titular wedding dress. But today’s audience, as well as today’s playwright, knows better, and it is the resolution, not of her doubts but of her certain knowledge that romance must fade, and the fables to take its place are not yet written, that carries the second half of Can I Say Yes to That Dress to its transcendent conclusion.

Any staged play will represent the work of a company of supporters, which in this case may well include contributions from fellow actors and authors who kibitzed on the story over the decade it simmered in the creator’s fertile memory and imagination. Spencer Potter contributed costume design, Tara Veasley managed the stage production, and Arika Shockmel did yeomen service to the environment with her gift for recycling props. Cynthia L Kehr Rees did the seamless sound design, Cara Pomeroy designed the hallucinatory mirror towers, and Jamie Rocha Allan directed them all. Together, they fine-tuned the extraordinary accomplishment of author and actor Sarah Shippobotham.


Can I Say Yes to That Dress, Salt Lake Acting Company, Salt Lake City, Sept. 27–Oct. 29.


Open Captioned Performance

October 15th at 6PM

Audio Described Performance

October 8th at 6 PM

Sensory Performance

October 7th at 2 PM

ASL Interpreted Performance

October 22nd at 6 PM


Categories: Theater

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