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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Show-Off


David Gram and Lee Mikeska Gardner
The Show-Off, the current production of American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia, is a comedy whose title character is very difficult to like. Aubrey Piper (David Gram) is a blowhard, a liar (or at least an exaggerator), and an unyielding self-promoter who dazzles and wins the heart of pretty Amy (Erin E. McGuff) while alienating her entire family—not to mention the audience. Still, George Kelly's 1924 play packs a lot of laughs side by side with insights about human nature that remain true today.

Leigh-Ann Friedel's set brings the viewer inside the modest, dark, rather frowsy North Philadelphia home of the Fisher family. Mr. Fisher (Craig Miller) is a workingman, Mrs. Fisher (Lee Mikeska Gardner) is a sensible homemaker, and older daughter Clara (Jenna Berk) is married to a responsible fellow, Frank Hyland (Nello DeBlasio). Amy works in an office and finds the effusive Aubrey captivating: he tells her he's an executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad instead of the $35-a-week clerk he really is, he talks too loud and too fast, he brandishes flowers and other gifts like weapons, and he wears a ridiculous toupee, but he truly loves her. The question becomes when his house of cards is going to collapse.

As solidly directed by Stephen Jarrett, Gram conveys Aubrey's hard shell and resistance to taking responsibility for his mistakes, but he also makes it clear that his feelings for Amy and her family are sincere and that, in his way, he's only doing what he thinks is best for everyone. (His bombastic manner and determined optimism suggest that his modern-day equivalent would be addicted to motivational speakers and self-help schemes.) Gardner earns her laughs as the long-suffering, constantly frazzled Mrs. Fisher, who tries to act as a voice of reason but can't stand up against the relentless battering ram in her life. Wide-eyed McGuff also plays well against Gram, two dreamers facing a tough world.

Erin Nugent's costumes help bring to life an era when manual laborers had to change into suit and tie before they could go out after work, even to visit a sick relative in the hospital. Berk, especially, wears detailed dresses befitting a woman of a somewhat higher financial level than the rest of her family.

American Century Theater
The Show-Off
January 11th - February 2nd
By George Kelly
Clara: Jenna Berk
Mrs. Fisher: Lee Mikeska Gardner
Amy: Erin E. McGuff
Frank Hyland: Nello DeBlasio
Mr. Fisher: Craig Miller
Joe: Evan Crump
Aubrey Piper: David Gram
Mr. Gill: Bill Gordon
Mr. Rogers: Joe Cronin
Directed by Stephen Jarrett
Gunston Theatre II, 2700 S. Lang St.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: www.americancentury.org


Photo: Johannes Markus


-- Susan Berlin


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



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