Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Arena Stage
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent review of Broadway Center Stage: Guys and Dolls

Olivia Hebert, Sean Wiberg,
and Baize Buzan

Photo by Tony Powell
Playwright Philip Barry (1896-1949) would not have been familiar with the term "work-life balance," but that modern concern with balancing personal and professional responsibilities is at the heart of his charming 1928 comedy Holiday, receiving a lavishly appointed and acted production on the Fichandler Stage of Washington's Arena Stage.

Barry's play focuses on Johnny Case (Sean Wiberg), a New York City lawyer who has made his way up from an impoverished childhood. He and Julia Seton (Olivia Hebert) meet and fall in love during their separate vacations to Lake Placid, New York, and impetuously decide to marry after knowing each other for less than a month. Johnny is nonplussed when he discovers that Julia is the daughter of a well-known banker (Todd Scofield) who lives in her family's five-story Fifth Avenue townhouse along with her sister Linda (Baize Buzan) and brother Ned (John Austin).

The title refers to Johnny's philosophy of life: he wants to make as much money as he can while he is still young, then take time off to "save part of my life for me." He has no objection to returning to work later in his life, he tells Julia, and no intention of living off her money. Very soon he and Julia realize how little they understand each other, with outspoken Linda and emotionally numb Ned providing their own opinions. (Interestingly, the play premiered the year before the stock market crash devastated many wealthy families.)

Director Anita Maynard-Losh has drawn engaging and well-considered performances from her entire cast, from the leads (boyish and determined Wiberg, self-satisfied but not smug Hebert, and privileged rebel Buzan) to the servants in tailcoats or crisp aprons. Jamie Smithson and Emily King Brown amuse as pompous Seton cousins, while Ahmad Kamal and Regina Aquino glitter as Linda's rich bohemian friends. Scofield plays the father, not as an authoritarian but as a benevolent patriarch who just needs to set his children straight, and Austin is quietly devastating as an heir trying to escape his destiny.

The physical production dazzles. The play is presented with its original two intermissions to allow Misha Kachman's scenic design to shift from the overstuffed Seton living room (plush sofas, rugs in art deco designs) to the attic playroom (with a rocking horse, phonograph, large music box, stuffed animals, even a trapeze) and back again. Pablo Santiago's lighting design enhances the luxurious feeling, while Ivania Stack has designed detailed costumes that match each character's personality: Hebert in an elegant flowered pastel day dress; Buzan illuminating a New Year's Eve party with an Egyptian-inspired, metallic gold party dress; Aquino in two contrasting "statement" ensembles; and Brown in a flowing gown that makes her resemble an overstuffed cushion. Daniel Erdberg's effective sound design incorporates offstage music by the Georgetown University Chamber Singers.

Holiday runs through November 6, 2022, at Arena Stage, Fichandler Stage, Mead Center for American Theater, 1101 6th St. SW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-488-3300 or visit

By Philip Barry
Directed by Anita Maynard-Losh

Susan Potter: Regina Aquino
Ned Seton: John Austin
Delia: Claire Blackwelder
Henry: Peter Boyer
Linda Seton: Baize Buzan
Charles: Bowen Fox
Julia Seton: Olivia Hebert
Nick Potter: Ahmad Kamal
Laura Cram: Emily King Brown
Edward Seton: Todd Scofield
Seton Cram: Jamie Smithson
Johnny Case: Sean Wiberg