Breezy Does It: Despite swapping class tensions for racial ones, Sabrina is charming.

A 60-year-old romantic comedy, to open the season at one of the city’s landmark theaters? Yawn, you might be thinking. But you’d be wrong: Sabrina Fair is no heavyweight show, and the production’s one innovation—the casting of black actors as characters once divided from the others by class—ends up feeling somewhat less than revolutionary. But Stephen Rayne’s production is charming, damn it, fleet of foot and light of touch, and charm is such an elusive quality onstage that what’s happening at Ford’s must be cheerfully celebrated. As in the much-loved 1954 film with Audrey Hepburn, a once-shy chauffeur’s daughter returns after a Paris education to the gracious Long Island estate where she grew up over the garage, a favorite but peripheral figure in the lives of the immensely wealthy Larrabee family. Her father, a bookish sort who values the long hours he spends waiting in the Rolls with Suetonius or some other classic, notes dubiously that she’s changed in her five years away—she’s brought home not just a new sense of style, but a new sense of herself, too. It’s playboy David Larrabee (an affable Tom Story) and his hard-charging businessman brother Linus (gruff, magnetic Todd Gearhart), however, who really find themselves taken aback by her transformation: Sabrina (a pert, mercurial Susan Heyward) has figured out, or nearly, what terms she wants to live on. One of the men hasn’t quite managed that trick, while one has but doesn’t know how to square it with a partner, and the evening’s minuet will of course be about which one will propose, which one she’ll accept, and how they’ll make it work over everyone’s objections. Taylor’s script is breezy and crisp and smarter than much of what passes for light romance, and the airy, elegant production—chic costumes by Wade Laboissonniere, an imposing yet welcoming set by Daniel Lee Conway, all of it lit artfully by Pat Collins—frames warm and knowing performances from a supporting cast: Helen Hedman and John Dow as the senior Larrabees, Kimberly Schraf as a weary-adventurer aunt with a sharp eye and big heart, Craig Wallace as Sabrina’s fond, stern father, Donna Migliaccio brisk and amusing as a housekeeper who knows both her place and how to make mischief for the mistress. It all adds up to one of the glossiest, best-unified, most effortless entertainments seen for some while hereabouts; that it’s got real heart, to boot, makes it pretty much a winner on all fronts.

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