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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Stage Door

Stage Door
Allison Leigh Corke, Ashley Faye Dillard and
Kate Volpe

American Century Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, returns to the era of the three-act, large-cast play with its production of Stage Door. Sadly, while the 1936 comedy by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman has its moments, it actually has too many characters for an audience to keep track of them all. Much of Marie Sproul's direction amounts to crowd control.

The time is the Depression, when unemployment was high and unattached young women had few options. Mrs. Orcutt (Jane E. Petkofsky), herself retired from the stage (and still dressed in high dramatic style), runs the Footlights Club, a boardinghouse for aspiring actresses. In the course of two hours and 40 minutes, the audience meets 15 residents of the club, counting the one who leaves to marry her boyfriend back home.

The central figures are sweet, determined Terry Randall (Kate Volpe), who lives and breathes theater; tall, redheaded Jean Maitland (Allison Leigh Corke), searching for her big break; and skittish Kaye Hamilton (Ashley Faye Dillard), who just wants a fresh start. They are the only ones who have real dramatic arcs, mostly concerning the conflict between theater as a vocation and movies as a career—personified by Keith Burgess (Joshua Dick), one of those pretentious playwrights who uses his lack of popularity as a badge of honor, and David Kingsley (Nicholas Hanson), a rare movie executive with principles.

Among the other characters wandering in and out are Olga Brandt (Katie Culligan), a classically trained pianist now accompanying chorus girls; brassy nightclub dancer Bernice Niemeyer (Jennifer Speerstra); prim Ann Braddock (Heather Benjamin); snooty rich Kendall Adams (K. Clare Johnson); and Linda Shaw (Leigh Anna Fry), who's being supported by an unseen admirer. Mattie the maid (Rebecca Ellis) is constantly trying out one costume or another, while Frank the porter (played by several actors) has little personality except for his hunched shoulders and harried look.

While American Century is generous with the number of women in its cast, that is less true of the men. Most notably, no sooner do Bradley Foster Smith and Michael Hammond exit as aspiring juvenile leads, they reappear as pushy lumber salesmen who have dates with two of the residents.

Sarah Kendrick's serviceable scenic design invokes the period through its use of vintage theatrical posters, while Christiane Marcus' costumes convey the glamour of elegantly draped daytime dresses and sleek evening wear.

American Century Theatre
Stage Door
April 8th - May 7th
By Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman
Olga Brandt: Katie Culligan
Bernice Niemeyer: Jennifer Speerstra
Susan Paige: Rachel Spicknall
Mattie: Rebecca Ellis
"Big Mary" Harper: Sherry Berg
"Little Mary" McCune: Jacqui Farkas
Madeleine Vauclain: Ty Hallmark
Judith Canfield: Shannon Listol
Ann Braddock: Heather Benjamin
Mrs. Orcutt: Jane E. Petkofsky
Kaye Hamilton: Ashley Faye Dillard
Linda Shaw: Leigh Anna Fry
Jean Maitland: Allison Leigh Corke
Bobby Melrose: Carina Czipoth
Frank: Steve Lebens (later Michael Hammond, Bradley Foster Smith, Joshua Dick, Nicholas Hanson)
Louise Mitchell: Elizabeth Darby
Kendall Adams: K. Clare Johnson
Terry Randall: Kate Volpe
Sam Hastings, Lou Milhauser, Larry Westcott: Bradley Foster Smith
Jimmy Devereaux, Fred Powell, Billy: Michael Hammond
David Kingsley: Nicholas Hanson
Keith Burgess: Joshua Dick
Mrs. Shaw: Emily Love Morrison
Dr. Randall, Adolph Gretzl: Steve Lebens
Directed by Marie Sproul
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-553-8782 or www.americancentury.org


Photo: Dennis Deloria


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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