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For the week of Feb. 16 through Feb. 22, 2000

A strong hooker of a bromo-seltzer

Company of Fools stages ‘The Philadelphia Story’


By HANS IBOLD
Express Staff Writer

Of the 1939 Broadway production of Phillip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story, a Philadelphia Daily News critic had this to say on the day after it opened: "In addition to the sprightly and nippy writing, which sets it off as a modern literary effort of no little merit, it is merrily, moonily unconventional and behaves like a strong hooker of bromo-seltzer. The result is that [Barry] makes more direct hits with innuendo and subtlety than the others could with a self-aiming shotgun."

While the critic’s words seem dated, Barry’s are not. His play about a high society wedding gone awry is an enduring comedy with meaning.

To open its fourth season, Company of Fools presents The Philadelphia Story at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey. The play opens Thursday night with a discounted preview. The run continues through March 5 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 3 p.m.

The story finds Tracy Lord (Denise Simone), haughty and spoiled heiress daughter to ultra-wealthy Philadelphia parents, ensnared in what the press has been trumping up as "the wedding of the century." Tracy is supposed to marry George Kittredge (Colter Hodge), a stodgy but dependable type who she sees as an antidote to her charismatic and philandering ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Rusty Wilson). Two tabloid reporters go undercover to capture the wedding. Tracy, the Lord family, Kittredge, Haven and the reporters all collide at the Lord’s opulent Philadephia estate. The question is, who, if anybody, will end up at the altar?

 

The Philadelphia Story has all the makings of a screwball comedy. While it is that, it also attempts to do much more.

"It makes us care about people," said Wilson, who is also Company of Fools artistic director. "It explores what it means to be human, what it means to be tolerant and forgiving."

"One of the key ideas behind of Company of Fools is to open audiences up with laughter," he added. "Laughter allows the players and the audience to receive the meat of the play."

The meat of the play is about "the human heart in conflict with itself," a Company of Fools mantra that was repeated by Washington, D.C.-based director John Glenn.

"Especially for Tracy, who we can all identify with," Glenn added.

Barry wrote the part of Tracy specifically for Katherine Hepburn, who played the role for two years on the stage.

The 1940 film adaptation was a box office success and received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. Jimmy Stewart won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

During rehearsals last week, Simone was practically swooning over Barry’s dialogue.

"The language is delicious," she said. "It’s sumptuous and luscious, like a desert."

In addition to Simone, Wilson and Hodge, the cast features Joel Valinsky as Mike Conner, Scarlet Caldwell as Dinah and Courtney Lloyd as Liz Imbrie. Other cast members include Mike Craig, Gene Dallago, Danielle Kennedy, Chad Smith, Sheila Summers, Dan Summers and Marilyn Teitge.

For this Friday night’s performance, the cast will make something spectacular happen. After the curtain closes, the wedding will continue at a lavish reception held at the Mint in Hailey. Everyone from the Lord estate will be in attendance, including the Lords, Haven, Dinah, Kittredge and lots of reporters.

The play is appropriate for ages 9 and up. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets for the discounted preview tomorrow night are $10. The Friday performance and gala are $45 each or $80 for a couple. Tickets are available at Read All About It in Hailey and at Chapter One in Ketchum. For more information, call 788-6520.

 

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