Photo of Blair Sams as Esther by Anthony Werhun
Philadelphia Theatre Company continues its 45th Anniversary season with Everything is Wonderful. This drama, set in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, is about forgiveness and what happens when an Amish couple’s world is turned upside down after the deaths of their two sons. Family secrets are exposed and faith is tested. This not-to-be-missed play was an honorable mention in The Kilroys’ List- an initiative to end the under-representation of female and transgender playwrights.
We spoke with cast member Blair Sams who plays the role of Esther in Everything is Wonderful. The show officially opens Wednesday, February 19th at 7pm and runs through March 8th. PTC work is performed at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre (480 S. Broad Street). Tickets are available here.
Q: You recently moved to the Philadelphia area. Where are you from and what drew you to this city?
A: After living in New York for 20 years, my husband, who is a playwright, decided to pursue his Master’s degree. He was accepted at Temple and we moved here so that he could attend school. We fell in love with the area and decided to stay! We bought a house in Bryn Mawr last year, so it’s looking pretty permanent.
Q: What have been some of your favorite acting roles prior to joining the cast of Everything is Wonderful?
A: There have been so many favorites and you fall in love with all of them. I’d have to say my favorite role was in my husband’s play Leap because that is where we met and fell in love! I love doing new work. It’s very gratifying to collaborate with a writer and director in bringing to life a new piece.
Q: You play Esther, tell us a bit about this character and her role in the play.
A: Esther is a very traditional, religious woman who has done everything that was expected of her. She follows the rules of her culture and her religion to a fault and she expects her family to do the same. She has suffered a great deal of loss in her life, however, and has a deep well of pain and anger that she keeps covered as much as she can. When it leaks out it can seem very harsh.
Q: How did you get involved with the play?
A: I was called into audition by the kind folks at PTC, read for Noah [Himmelstein] and was lucky enough to be cast.
Q: Though Everything is Wonderful focuses on an Amish family, in what ways is this story still relatable to modern families?
A: Family is family, and the dynamics that exist in this family are pretty universal. I’m sure lots of people with recognize their parents or sisters and brothers in this play.
Q: What are some issues or themes that Everything is Wonderful explores?
A: Forgiveness and reconciliation are the main themes of the play and Chelsea [Marcantel], our playwright, addresses them just beautifully. There are several tragedies and one brutal incident that are the center of the action, and we see the characters struggle to come together in the fall out of those acts.
Q: What does this play mean to you?
It is a beautiful play. A real ensemble piece, which is a joy for any actor, and we have the most wonderful and talented cast. It’s a joy to work with them and with our amazing director Noah. I think we’re making something really special.
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from this show?
I hope that the audience will be transported for a few hours and that they will be moved by the play. I know they will be moved by the play! I think everyone will walk out a bit softer than when they came in.