Monday, May 16, 2005

Philadelphia Story a "frothy meringue of a play"

So sayeth Judith Steiner of TheatreWorld.
Katherine Hepburn was at a turning point in her career when she brought Barry's play to Broadway in 1939. Rejected by Hollywood, because her films didn't earn enough money, she went back East to prove herself, and prove herself she did. Smart enough to buy the film rights, she never looked back. Not bad for an actress essentially playing herself. That is a major part of the problem with this production. Jennifer Ehle who plays the Hepburn role of Tracy Lord is a very pretty, buxom English actress, but she isn't whippet thin; she has the soft round face of a country girl, and she doesn't look in any way like old Philadelphia money. Zaks has her speak her lines out to the audience in a flat, dated performance that has little to do with the other actors on the stage. Adding insult to injury, Costume Designer Tom Rands has dressed her in a series of the most unflattering frou-frou frocks that no self-respecting between the wars debutant would have been caught dead in.

There is also a review on Arena Images. The site isn't loading for me, but the Google cache of the site lets you read the text at least.
What it does have, though, is the glacial, raven-haired beauty of Jennifer Ehle, in the role of Tracy Lord originally immortalised on the Broadway stage and subsequently the silver screen by Katharine Hepburn, and then in the subsequent musical version by Grace Kelly. Watching this ice-maiden of a principled prig eventually thaw is one of the chief dramatic pleasure of the convoluted plotting that also involves a tabloid journalist and his photographer partner stalking the proceedings.

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