Sunday, 19 August 2012

His Girl Friday MTC.Aug 18, 2012 ***

Adapted by John Guare from The Front Page by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur and the Columbia Pictures Film
Playhouse, Melbourne Arts Centre, Aug 11 to Sept 15, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***
Published in Herald Sun on Monday Aug 20, 2012. 
 Pamela Rabe & Philip Quast

Philip Quast is delectably rude, manipulative and domineering as Walter Burns, the bull-headed news editor who would sell his soul for a scoop in His Girl Friday, John Guare’s stage adaptation based on Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 play and the 1940 movie.

Pamela Rabe is a fitting comic foil for Quast as Walter’s workhorse, former wife and talented newshound, Hildy Johnson, capturing some of the gangling presence and compulsive behaviour of Rosalind Russell in the movie.

Guare’s 21st century version revisits the barbed dialogue, acidic cynicism and machine gun gags of black and white screwball comedies.

Director, Aidan Fennessy and his cast of 16 channel the same frenetic pace of the glib dialogue, particularly in the scenes featuring the rabble of reporters scrambling for a juicy headline, and in Quast and Rabe’s combative confrontations as Walter and Hildy.

However, the production falters in other scenes where the pace and rhythm get flabby, although the audience may not survive such relentless speed for nearly three hours.

The play takes place in the Press Room of a Chicago jail on the night before Hitler invades Poland, but the newspapermen are only obsessed with a local headline about the imminent execution of cop-killer, Earl Holub (David Woods).

Hildy arrives to say her goodbyes before taking off to marry her rich, mummy’s boy (Christopher Stollery) and escape the clutches of the newspaper and its seductive editor, Walter.

The play is not only a screwy comedy but also an indictment of dodgy politicians and a media that sacrifices truth for a sensational headline by transforming the poor, frightened Jewish immigrant, Holub, into a gun-wielding Communist.

The script and the exceptional comic cast provide some huge laughs, but the production feels overly long at nearly three hours and it does not reach its full potential as a fast-paced comedy.

But I have to say that I love a screwball comedy when it’s good.

By Kate Herbert
Director Aidan Fennessy
Set and Costume Designer Tracy Grant Lord
Lighting Designer Matt Scott
Sound Designer Russell Goldsmith
Assistant Director Roslyn Oades

 Marco Chiappi (Kruger), Kate Cole (Mollie Malloy), Tyler Coppin (McCue), Jim
Daly (Minister/Mayor/Policeman), Giordano Gangl (Woodenshoes), Tom Hobbs
(Sweeney), Peter Houghton (Wilson), John Leary (Bersinger/Pinkus), Adam Murphy
(Diamond Louie), Grant Piro (Endicott), Philip Quast (Walter), Pamela Rabe (Hildy),
Deidre Rubenstein (Mrs Baldwin), Christopher Stollery (Bruce Baldwin), David Woods
(Halub), Tim Wotherspoon (Schwartz)

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