Main Street Theater is offering Houstonians an unparalleled delight with their production of Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles' play LOVE GOES TO PRESS. The play found success in London in 1946 and then moved across the pond to New York in 1947. It opened January 1 and closed on January 4. The play was not touched again in the United States until earlier in 2012 when the Mint Theater revived it. With a strong and talented cast and crew, Main Street Theater is presenting the Regional Premiere of the mad cap, romantic, and charmingly feminist comedy, running now through December 23, 2012.
Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles' play follows two smart, bold, and beautiful women who are renowned for scooping their male counterparts. They arrive in an Italian Press Camp, about eight miles from the front line. Through hilarious dramatic irony and an almost Shakespearean sense of farce, the women navigate their romantic lives, the complications that come with being a female war correspondent, and balancing their personal and professional lives. Strong social commentary, witty dialogue, and even a case of mistaken identities are sure to leave the audience rolling in the aisles while the audience ponders the lasting poignancy of the work. Simply put, the play's lack of success in New York in 1947 may have ultimately been that it was just too far ahead of its time for American tastes.
Direction by Mark Adams is mostly fast paced, ensuring that all of the comedy lands well. The first scene of the show is lengthy. This makes the play feel as though it drags its feet a couple of times before the first blackout late in the first act. Yet, the rest of play moves along with great pacing, keeping the audience easily engaged and intrigued.
Leading the show, Elissa Levitt's Annabelle Jones and Crystal O'Brien's Jane Mason are a fascinating duo. Independent of each other, both women are strong, intelligent, and motivated professionals attempting to be the best they can be. They chase their leads, regardless of danger, so they can publish a life altering story that may improve conditions through educating the masses. As friends, they are charismatic and win the audience over, especially when we get to see their girl-talk version of locker room talk. As they tell each other their stories of "conquests" and failed romances, the audience sees them fold their clothing and concern their selves with hair and make-up. The disparity of the situation is comical and speaks to modern audiences about being able to be purposely pretty while be intelligent and powerful. As they have reversed the "male gaze" it is clear they worry about outward appearances because they want to, not because they feel they must. Elissa Levitt and Crystal O'Brien have deftly created richly realistic and fascinating characters that are wholly complex and entertaining.
Playing Daphne Rutherford, Jacqui Grady portrays the foil to Annabelle Jones and Jane Mason. Daphne Rutherford is devastatingly domesticated and "feminine," seeming to be searching for the right man to control and own her. Jacqui Grady flits about the stage, earning her fair share of laughter playing the ditz that just doesn't understand what is really happening around her.
Major Philip Brooke-Jervaux played by Joel Sandel and Joe Rogers played by Joe Kirkendall would make women swoon if this was any other romantic comedy. Instead, utilizing every cliché and swoon worthy tactic available, these men create characters that seek only to domesticate and tame the women the audience roots for. They offer the women financial security, fidelity, and romance that will only diminish and fade after marriage. What girl wouldn't want all of that? The audience gets great joy and many laughs out of watching these handsome, leading men tirelessly chase the lovely leading ladies. Being so well played throughout the show, the irony of the final circumstance the men find themselves in brings down the house with hearty guffaws of laughter.
Philip Hays, as Leonard Lightfoot, is comedic gold. His efforts to win over Daphne Rutherford are well played and devilishly timed. Many of the laughs he earned are reminiscent of the laughs that one might earn playing Malvolio in TWELFTH NIGHT as he walks on stage in cross gartered yellow stockings. Not duped in the same way as Malvolio, Philip Hays' Leonard Lightfoot is often the butt of a joke because of how silly the snobbish prat is.