Archikulture Digest

The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story

By Phillip Barry

Directed by Aradhana Tiwari

Starring Piper Rae Patterson, Brian Brightman, Scott Edwin Leake and Robert Johnson

Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL</strong>

Money might not make you happy, but on stage it tends to make you very funny. Tonight Philadelphia society prepares for a June wedding; Tracy Lord (Patterson) steps up to the plate for the second time, this year with wealthy coal baron George Kittredge (Leake). Last season’s strike out hubby was yacht designer C. K. Dexter Haven (Brightman), violent but sardonic as all get out he’s not quite ready to accept Tracy’s independent streak. Adding fuel to the fire are the two spies in the house sent by a local tell-all rag to peep on the rich and famous. That’s Liz Imbrie (Becky Eck) and semi-hack writer Mike Connor (Johnson); they might be a low level romance but they get along too well professionally for any real sparks. When Tracy and her mom Margret (Leslie Penuel) find out about the spies they set out to freak them out to the point they kill the article. Cute, but after a short bit that device slips away and the real story appears; that’s the three way romance between Tracy and her suitors: Connor and Haven and Kittredge.

Bouncing off the walls and igniting his classic screw ball comedy we find a tasty six-pack of fine comic actors: “Uncle Willy” Tracy (Brian’s Chamber) plays the kind of dirty old man I hope to grow into; he pinches butts, clucks disapprovingly at young people but still horn dogs the eligible and semi-eligible women. Young Dinah (Kennedy Joy Foristall) overacts her little heart out as the just-knowing-enough pre-teen who delivers all those awkward bumps of exposition. Then there’s Kevin Zepf as Tracy’s brother. He’s bright, positive and not completely believable as a writer; he spends a pre-wedding party drinking nothing but coffee and then at 3 a.m. sets out to write a 3000 word rebuttal to save the Lord family’s honor. He makes the sunrise deadline like THAT could happen in real life. Imperious Tommy Keesling is Margret’s cheating husband; his rationalization of an old affair went down a bit too easily with her but then he IS rich. Lastly I’ll plug the always proper Butler Thomas (John Hamilton Rice); I was happy to see he successfully snuck a left over drink and I hope no one left a cigarette butt in it.

This might be one of the last really successful drawing room comedies: all the action is on one room, social mores are probed and pushed but ultimately reaffirmed. Everyone pairs up properly in Hayes code friendly couplings. There are a lot of words on these pages; Patterson in particular pumps out some fast but clear dialog and keeps it all intelligible. There’s as much declaration as explanation on this stage and more is announced than revealed. But the humor here derives from not just misunderstanding but more from understanding a bit more than is healthy. As always, there’s a stunning set from Lisa Buck with plenty of mystic lighting and sneaky entrances. This set is a real playground for the rich; they are always with us and while they don’t sin notably more often, they tend to draw more attention when they do. And that’s what money really buys: A much higher class of vanity.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com


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