Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Seven Year Itch
Also see Susan's review of The Shoplifters
The Seven Year Itch is one of those titles that people may know, but most of them aren't familiar with George Axelrod's 1952 original play. (They may well know the 1955 film version with Marilyn Monroe, which differs from the play in important ways.) American Century Theater in Arlington, Virginia, has brought back the play originally staged by the company in its 2002-2003 seasonas part of its valedictory season.
Director Rip Claassen has polished the material to a high shine, anchored by two solid lead performances and staged on an expansive, finely detailed set designed by Trena M. Weiss.
It's summer in New York City, in an era when husbands stayed in town to work while their families vacationed at the beach or in the country. Richard Sherman (Bruce Alan Rauscher), who works in publishing, finds his "bachelor" life boring until he meets the unnamed Girl (Carolyn Kashner) subletting the apartment upstairs from his. (Talk about meeting cute: she knocks a large potted tomato plant off her terrace and it just misses hitting him on the head.) Suddenly he's making bargains with himself, trying to see just what he can get away with.
Axelrod presents the action through Richard's eyes, allowing the audience to see his fantasies (Richard with an urbane British accent, romancing the glamorously dressed Girl) and his fears, mostly involving his wife (Emily Morrison) and his friend Tom MacKenzie (Ric Andersen), a pretentious writer. Both Richard and the Girl also share their thoughts with the audience through the magic of voice-over.
Rauscher has an appealing hangdog quality as Richard: after seven years of marriage and one child, he's been told to cut back on his drinking and stop smoking. He loves his family, but he's 42 and feeling a bit constricted. As played by Kashner, the Girl is not a supercharged sex symbol like Marilyn, just a pretty and self-confident 22-year-old redhead who wants an independent life before marriage and wouldn't say no to sex as long as it doesn't lead to a lasting relationship. (In the 1950s? Shocking!)
Morrison and Andersen do well with contrasting portrayals in the "real" and fantasy scenes, while Steve Lebens amuses as a psychoanalyst whose book Richard is editing.
Ed Moser's sound design also adds to the experience, both literal (the classic songs Richard plays on his hi-fi) and impressionistic (the movie-style underscoring of the fantasy sequences).