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“The Philadelphia Story” at Ann Arbor Civic Theater – (Review) May 8, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.

First, disclosure — I was the marketing liaison for this production, and I did organize the scene changes — that being said, I was not involved in any other way with this production, and since this is my own blog, I can review whatever I want. In the past I have had a guest reviewer, but quite frankly, there isn’t time to do that with only a few more performances at hand…

It is a delight to have The Philadelphia Story back on stage — those of us of a certain age will remember lots of college and community productions of this show, before it went out of fashion many years ago — but it needn’t have…it is just as relevant today as it was in the late 30’s when it was written.  Philip Barry was known for witty patter and his humorous take on society in the 30’s. The Philadelphia Story was written for Kathryn Hepburn for Broadway in 1939, and then gifted to her as a birthday present for the movie version a year later.

Here, Colleen Kartheiser does a great job playing Tracy Lord, society girl on the eve of her second marriage, and the eye-opening journey that ensues when confronted with current beau George Kittredge (solid Adam Weakley), ex-husband CK Dexter Haven (terrific Karl Kasischke), and soulful writer Macauley Connor (excellent Nick Boyer) at the same time. One girl. Three guys. Laughter (and romance) follows. But how those twists and turns follow suit are exactly what makes this show so well written — and why its considered the “original romantic comedy” because of the way the third act plays out in its romantic final moments.

Also terrific is the entire supporting cast, including matriarch Kathleen Beardmore and patriarch Jared Hoffert of the Lord Clan, funny and meddling sister Dinah Megan Shiplett, photographer Alix Berneis (in a subtle underplayed role that makes her story all that more interesting), and additional family, servants, and others (David Angus, Rob Roy, Thom Johnson, Laurie Atwood, Keith Rikli, Lisa Gavan, and Charlie Sutherland.)

It is all played out on a gorgeous revolving set designed by Cathy Cassar, period-gorgeous costumes by Wendy Katz Hiller, period perfect furnishings by Wendy Wright, and nicely lit by Zachary Johnson (I particularly liked the Act II Scene 1 sequence lit outdoors at nightime, with its romantic shadows and surprises lending an almost dreamlike quality to the proceedings.)

Wendy Wright’s direction paces things well, includes plenty of surprises, and makes for a fine evening of theatre — posh enough to depict society life at its best, while adding enough modern-day sensibility to make it all work 75 years later.

A final note: dear audience member the row to my left: if your deaf husband does not understand what is going on, please do NOT explain to him during the show loudly and for all to hear exactly what is going on — oh, and by the way, your interpretation of events wasn’t all that accurate.

I loved the show — you will too. If you are familiar with it already, you will find how remarkably these actors make the roles their own. If you have never seen the show, well you owe it to yourself to see this chestnut in its very pretty incarnation at the Arthur Miller Theater for the rest of this weekend.

Tickets at http://www.a2ct.org/tickets or at the door.

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