Through an array of brilliant foreign accents, impersonating body language, and a couple of minor wardrobe changes, Sarah Jones managed to bring to life the unique characters of her empowering one-woman-show, “Sell/Buy/Date,” on January 23 in UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Jones captivated Tuesday’s audience with her brilliantly humorous script, proving just why The New York Times called her “a master of the genre” of theater.
With a multicultural background, Jones is an activist and Tony and Obie award-winning American playwright dedicated to illuminating societal and political issues through her work. “Sell/Buy/Date” focuses on female and multicultural justice while tying in today’s current political landscape. Noticeably, the future-tense performance allows the audience to feel detached and enjoy their hour-and-a-half show as the painful reality of her message sinks in.
Not only do her multiple, well-executed characters make it hard to believe the performance is only a one-woman act, but halfway through the show, Jones shockingly switches from her believed-to-be-natural British accent to her true American voice. Catching everyone off guard, she sent the audience into a rumble over this clever prank. Her passion and deep understanding of every character she personified made it easy to forget the same Sarah stood on-stage the entire night.
Tuesday’s performance opened with four female acts whose characters unveiled the societal messages of sex and womanhood, specifically related to sex work. The audience heard about an 86-year-old discovering online pornography, a college-aged student in a fem-porn class, a sex worker, and a 19-year-old pushed into sex work through her previous, male-dominated relationships. Each hilarious act raised awareness about how women in the industry are usually forced into it and remain due to financial reasons.
Jones reciprocated the opening act with a male perspective, an interview of an engaged man entering his bachelor party (a strip club). This act disclosed the double standards that men often inflict on women. Out of character, Jones explained to the audience how women struggle with expectations of being appealing and sexy to men while trying to avoid the label “slut.” She asked the audience what they even called male sluts. Laughing, she replied, “Very good, they were called men.”
The following acts from perspectives of Latina and Muslim women illuminated the precious yet oppressive multicultural dynamic of the United States while relating to today’s politics. The women’s indirect humor motivated the crowd to act in dire times where circumstances, like the new presidency, threaten the multicultural identity of our nation.
The final act, where Jones became a male D.C. Women’s Marcher involved in hip hop culture, reached out to the men in the audience, convincing them that if a movement is to be successful it requires collaboration from everyone, not just women. The act revealed how feminism isn’t a threat against men but instead a group effort.
After the closing Q&A of Tuesday’s performance, it became obvious how meaningful Jones’ work is to her and her audience. Her journey on stage empowers women while remaining inclusive toward men, highlighting the beauty of collective work and its potential to make societal change. She expressed that she owes her biggest debt to all the people whose lives she gets to witness, listen to, and eventually bring to life onstage.
A genius work of art, “Sell/Buy/Date” exemplifies the beauty of embracing our differences. Jones’ messages lingered in the minds of the applauding audience as they exited the auditorium, feeling newly inspired.