Stop The Presses

'His Girl Friday' has charm, but doesn't deliver

This just in: Newsroom Comedy Much More Appealing in Theory Than Reality. Set in a 1930s Chicago courthouse press room, on a stage replete with old-fashioned typewriters, antique phones, and dark wood tones, the action starts out with a rush of diffused energy that is unfortunately typical of much of the evening. A bunch of cranky, dissolute news hawks play out just about every cliché on record, in this case squawking like buzzards over the upcoming hanging of cop-killing anarchist Earl Holub (it is, frankly, not as interesting as it sounds). Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance anchor the cast as divorced idealistic muckrakers (yes, I know that's a contradiction). Bassett, as reporter Hildy Johnson, brings an easy appeal to her role. Vance, as editor Walter Burns, steps on a line here and there, but brings a physical slipperiness to his amoral and happily manipulative character. There are plenty of truly funny moments, such as Kris L. Nelson's maniacal entrance at the end of Act I as Holub, and Diamond Louie (Zach Curtis) carrying off the hair-pulling old biddy Mrs. Baldwin (Barbara Byrne) in the second act. Kate Eifrig adds to what is a growing résumé of offbeat interpretations with her Mollie Molloy, a tart with a heart of gold that Eifrig rescues from Groanerville with an off the rails, all eyes and limbs performance. Under Joe Dowling's direction, the production comes in at just under three hours. One feels that if any of the actors were given a chance to pause for a breath and actually lend subtlety to their work, we would have been there for at least four. It is ultimately a frustrating night, with the abundance of talent (both local and national) onstage, and with a sense of missed opportunity in the air. There is simply something exhausting about watching talented people work so hard for results so scattershot.

 
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