Excellent Performances In “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY”

ORANGE PARK COMMUNITY THEATRE REVIEW

The classic “Philadelphia Story” opened April 10, 2015 on the OPCT stage and will run through April 26.

Seventy-six years have passed since Philip Barry’s “The Philadelphia Story” debuted on Broadway in 1939. The play was written for Katherine Hepburn, who starred both in the play and in the film version, which was financed by Howard Hughes. Both the play and the film were huge hits. The years have not diminished the grace, charm, and humor of this true classic.

In case you have not caught the excellent movie version with Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, or “High Society,” the musical version with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, we will give you a bit of the plot. The story concerns twenty-four hours in the life of Tracy Lord, a wealthy Philadelphia socialite. She has recently divorced her first husband C.K Dexter Haven and is preparing to marry the wealthy George Kittredge.

Tracy’s father, Seth Lord (Fred Steel) has been caught cheating on Tracy’s mother in New York. To keep the story out of the scandal sheets, which would ruin the wedding, Tracy’s mischievous brother Sandy (Mark Rubens in an excellent performance) finesses a deal with the publishers to allow two journalists access to the family during the wedding festivities to write a fluff piece about the Lord family and their high society wedding.

Tracy confronts many personal issues when she meets Mike Connor (Carter Cheatum) the journalist, whom she finds quite attractive, and she is also faced with the return of her charming and quick-witted ex-husband, C.K. (Devin Kramer). Drinks flow freely the night before the wedding, causing all kinds of complications and leading to a delightful ending; we will leave the details for you to discover when you see the play.

The play is a bit talky in the first act, but many plays are, as the playwright needs to ensure the audience learns about the characters. The action really accelerates after intermission.

Travis Harms as Tracy’s newly intended husband George is rigid and straight-laced, and friends tell Tracy she should not be marrying him.

Kara Parham is Dinah Lord, Tracy’s teenage sister, who receives a lifetime of lessons about complicated relationships.

You are going to love Eric Sorensen as Uncle Willie, the boozing, fun-loving, and bottom-pinching (which apparently was not unusual behavior in 1939) relative who wants most of all to enjoy life. Sorensen’s performance provides a lot of the comedy in the play.

Devin Kramer, who is making his community theatre debut at OPCT, is picture perfect as the suave socialite and ex-husband C.K. He is smooth, very smooth, as he barges in on a wedding he has not been invited to attend.

Brittney Morris is Liz, a young and attractive photographer. Ms. Morris’s stage experience has been mainly in professional dance, which has included performing on the Carnival Cruise Lines. In a minor subplot, we learn that she is in love with her fellow reporter, Mike.

Veteran actress Harriet Leathem turns in a sterling characterization as Marjorie Lord, Tracy’s tolerant, flustered, and at times very funny mother who keeps busy keeping things organized and keeping the peace.

Rachel Gibson, who makes her first stage appearance ever, gives a remarkable performance as Tracy. Ms. Gibson was obviously born with incredible acting talent as she is line-perfect and has great stage presence in this demanding role. She puts her own personality and charm into this portrayal.

Rounding out the cast are Breanna Shuman as Edwina and Lillie Bullard as Elsie May, the two household maids. Patrick Carson appears in two cameo roles, as the handyman Mac and as the Parson.

Tricia Williams is a drama teacher with Keystone Heights High School, and she is making her directing debut. Her previous experience at OPCT had been as the inn keeper in “Hot Bed Hotel” a couple of seasons ago. Ms. Williams also designed the artful sets, which include a posh living room and an outdoor bricked patio.

Seven of the fourteen cast members were on the stage at OPCT for the first time, and as noted, for some, it was a first stage appearance. Ms. Williams has done an excellent job of casting and directing this delightful comedy from the past.

Costume Designer and Stage Manager Caitlin Charrier have captured the 1930’s look and we especially liked the vintage-inspired dresses worn by Ms. Gibson and Ms. Leathman.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see this talented cast in a play that bears its age lightly while depicting high society in the Philadelphia of the 1930’s. For tickets and information, call 904-276-2599 or visit opct.org.

 

 

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.
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