An ebullient woman bounds onstage, chattering in French so voluble it makes one want to go back in time to those high school foreign language lessons and pay more attention.
This is Sophie (Corinne Shor), who has a French accent so thick you could cut it with a baguette knife. Full of bonhomie, joie de vivre and all those other French phrases meaning pure pleasure in life, she has recently deplaned in Minneapolis, shortly before the onset of a hard winter.
It doesn’t take long for Sophie to confide her very open secret to the audience, whom she invites to become her “confidantes” throughout the brief, rollicking, poignant “I Am Sophie,” a solo show directed by Susan Angelo, now at Pacific Resident Theatre.
It seems that the very French, oh so ooh-la-la Sophie is actually Kate, a Minnesotan born and bred, complete with flat accent and droning intonation. Kate gravitated to Paris a couple of years earlier and returned as the extravagant, lively, irresistible Sophie — whom she adamantly insists is the person she intends to be, now and forever.
A recent “Saturday Night Live” sketch touched on commonalities of things universally detested, including students who studied abroad and returned home with the accents of their host countries. Make no mistake. Sophie’s transformation is no mere affectation, but a deep, conscious choice that, as we later learn, keeps the drab, sad reality of her actual self at bay. But as others react with negativity and dismay, most painfully Sophie-nee-Kate’s cancer-stricken father, Shor’s play touches upon timely issues of what it means to transition into one’s authentic self, despite facing opprobrium from society and loved ones.
Sophie has been called home to run the family business during her father’s decline and, as inevitable loss follows, Shor’s initially comic play deepens into a harrowing portrait of personal grief. The overriding problem of the play, however, is that Shor’s intriguing central premise is presented so reiteratively that even the lighter-than-air, delightful Sophie wears thin on occasion. Still, Sophie’s pursuit of identity is no narcissistic exercise, but a fascinating journey into what constitutes an individual, and how one is defined not only by society but in one’s innermost self.
‘I Am Sophie’
Where: Pacific Resident Theatre, 705½ Venice Blvd., Venice
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Jan. 27. No performances Nov. 22 and Dec. 20-27.
Info: (310) 822-8392 pacificresidenttheatre.com
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes