Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Was Up With The Lollipops?

"Old Acquaintance" presented by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre

Oh, the glamour of pre-war NYC! Kit and Millie have been friends and friendly competitors since college. Millie married, had a child and divorced, while Kit has moved from romance to romance, never managing to settle down. Millie cranks out at least one novel a year, always a good seller, but rarely the critics' choice. Kit is much less prolific, but the critics' darling when she does publish. Now Millie's daughter, Deirdre has finished school and at the age of 19 is ready to take on life in NYC as a modern woman of 1940. Kit's current affair is with a younger office worker at her publisher's.

John Van Druten's script, originally ran on Broadway in 1940 is in its first revival. Mr. Van Druten, also the author of "I Remember Mama," "Leave Her to Heaven," Bell, Book and Candle," and "I Am a Camera." This effort, one of his first, seems to follow the style of George S. Kaufman and other drawing room comedies of the '20s and '30s holds a couple of clever lines, such as Kit's first reference to Millie, "She has an extraordinary gift of common sense that never finds its way into her books." (Inexplicably, Kit also has some sort of oral fixation, appearing in nearly every scene sucking on a lollipop or candy cane.) Millie, ever the on-the-verge-of-hysterics mother of the period is totally involved her daughter's life, feeling incomplete since her husband left and now feels worse when she learns he is to remarry a young artist whom Millie herself had promoted a few years before. Deirdre, a classic ingenue looking to shake off the shackles of her mother and her youth, and considers kick-starting her new life via an affair with a well-heeled cad. Kit's inamorata, Rudd, has proposed and was quickly and kindly declined. Of course, when Rudd and Deirdre meet, true love appears, confusion arises, hilarity ensues and all is resolved by the end of Act 3.

As Kit, Margaret Colin is ever-lovely and elegant, but missing the fun her character is described as having. We know her affection for Rudd is real, but she seems to have lost sight of the care-free sophisticate she's playing. I was looking for Rosalind Russell a la "Auntie Mame," but she came across more like Norma Shearer from "The Women."

As Rudd, her much-younger boyfriend, Cory Stoll is earnest with a touch of callow. Diane Davis' Deirdre is very much a 1940 version of her willful daughter from "Regrets Only" earlier this year at Manhattan Theatre Club. Stephen Bogardus gets the thankless role of her father, who only shows up to give Millie another chance to chew some scenery.

And chew she does. Harriet Harris' Millie sparkles, wails, cries and staggers in this performance of a manic woman on the crest of middle age. She sweeps in on every entrance, whether in Kit's pseudo-edwardian/eclectic Greenwich Village garret, or the pepto-pink damask and white marble Park Avenue apartment she sublets for the winter. She seems to be the only one on stage having any real fun in this comedy.

Director Michael Wilson keeps a brisk pace with this three-acter, but he doesn't seem to have connected with Ms. Colin. Why else would she come across so dour? Alexander Dodge's NY apartments are in keeping with the period, complemented but not overly enhanced by Rui Rita's lighting. David Woolard's costumes lean heavily in favor of Ms. Harris' character as well. The rest are appropriate though not exemplary.

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