Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Zander Opper

The Seven Year Itch
Ivoryton Playhouse

Holly Holcomb and David Conaway
George Axelrod's delightful comedy The Seven Year Itch is currently being given a dandy production at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Perhaps best known from its film version (which starred Marilyn Monroe), this 1950s play explores what happens when a businessman is left alone in New York City while his wife "summers in the country," and the various complications that arise. Blessed with wonderful designers, director Lawrence Thelen manages to capture the look and feel of the era and, even better, his entire cast is superb. In particular, there is David Conaway, who is just wonderful as Richard Sherman, the businessman in question. Nearly the entire play is seen from his perspective and Conaway carries the show beautifully, keeping the audience riveted from beginning to end. A word must also be mentioned about Holly Holcomb, who is delectable in the Marilyn Monroe role. And the director's pacing of the show feels just right, with the laughter being plentiful throughout. The Seven Year Itch at the Ivoryton Playhouse proves to be a highly enjoyable show and is therefore strongly recommended.

It's hard to believe that this play would work as well without David Conaway in the leading role. Conaway is a natural comedian and he brings those gifts to the show. Without giving too much away, the play begins with Richard Sherman's wife Helen (the wickedly amusing Emma O'Donnell) leaving for a vacation and warning her husband that he must keep from drinking or smoking while she is gone and more or less telling him that he must stay on a healthy regiment. Of course, since this is a comedy, he proceeds to get into all sorts of trouble. Chief among the complications that arise is when he meets The Girl upstairs (Holly Holcomb) and he invites her for a drink in his apartment.

One of the conceits of the play is that, in between scenes, Conaway talks directly to the audience in amusing monologues, so we are always on his side and there are even fantasy sequences where he imagines what could happen if he were in to indulge in different, mostly adulterous, behaviors involving various women in his life. These fantasy scenes are delineated by changes in the lighting onstage and the women appearing through different doors on Daniel Nischan's multi-leveled set as they enact the reveries in Conaway's head. (Indeed, by the conclusion, it is almost difficult to figure out which are the fantasies and what is "real," as things get more and more complicated!)

Throughout, Conaway is consistently funny and is superbly supported by Holly Holcomb, as the aforementioned girl upstairs. I previously saw this actress in the last production at the Ivoryton Playhouse, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. She was quite fine in that show, but she is even better here, as she manages to be, in her own way, about as delicious and scintillating as Marilyn Monroe was in the film. Also doing wonderful work are John Little, as a psychiatrist whose book Conaway is to publish, and Jason Naylor, as the man who Conaway imagines is after his wife Helen.

Still, it is the female element in The Seven Year Itch that gives the play its sizzle, in addition to the laughs. One of the best scenes in the show is a fantasy sequence toward the conclusion when Conaway imagines what Helen would do if she ever were to find out that he had committed adultery—Emma O'Donnell is a hoot as Helen, as she simultaneously mixes cake batter in a bowl and pulls a gun on her husband.

But I am starting to give too much away. One of the delights of The Seven Year Itch is seeing just how far Richard, the 1950s "tired businessman" at the center of the show, will go when left to his own vices. Pointedly, there is a note from the director in the program which states that, for all the changes in the sixty years since the play was written, there is still something universal about watching a man facing "compromising situations" and deciding whether or not he will misbehave. Thanks to this terrific cast and director Lawrence Thelen's wonderful direction, George Axelrod's The Seven Year Itch at the Ivoryton Playhouse manages to remain as wickedly funny and entertaining as when it was first produced.

The Seven Year Itch continues performances at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut through November 17th. For tickets, visit www.ivorytonplayhouse.org or call (860) 767-7318.

Photo: Anne Hudson

Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Zander Opper