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THEATER REVIEW: The Philadelphia Story

by Chris Conley

If The Philadelphia Story was made in the 1990s, it would star Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. And this is a far-better script than either of them have ever worked with. This may be the original chick-flick. And before it was filmed in 1940, it had a successful run on Broadway.

This is also an important part of theater history The Philadelphia Story saved Katherine Hepburns career. Shed starred in a series of Hollywood flops in the late 1930s, and was feeling the backlash from theater owners and the studios she was labeled as box office posion. She went to Broadway with a light, witty play that was written just for her. When it became a movie, Hepburn controlled the production rights. She picked her own director (George Cukor), her own co-star (Cary Grant), and delivered an Oscar-nominated performance.

Younger theater-goers will wonder what the big deal is its dialog, not action, that moves the story along. But what dialog it is! This is the kind of writing we dream about but never get. Characters say the right things; theyre cool, theyre sharp.

The Pittsville Area Community Theater's production is solid. They've done a good job picking material that they can do well. Jillian Jackan has the lead role, a 20-something Philadelphia socialite who's about to get married for a second time... the kind of story the tabloids of 70-years ago would find scandalous. Jackin is in almost every scene, and the evening hinges on her part. She does not disappoint.

On the eve of her wedding, her soon-to-be-ex-husband (Preston Fuller), a tabloid reporter (Nathan Admundson), and the prospective groom (Chris Michalski) are all in attendance. The would-be bride has feelings for all of them. All of our leading men are good actors, and the script is carefully written so that all of them have faults and advantages to being the one who wins her hand. My only complaint of the evening is that I never developed a rooting interest in who comes out on top. In the movie, you get the sense that the match is a good fit.

There are two supporting-cast members who shined. Greg Jackan, as the father-of-the-bride, has the challenge of being a sympathetic philanderer. He lives up to a demanding part. And Jamie Deitz plays the scheming 15-year-old younger sister, and is part-plucky, part-hyper-curious, and holds back from being a total brat.

A final thought about Pittsville Area Community Theater. This is a town that's too small for its own theater group. But it has one. That's a sign that a small group of people care about what they're doing. It showed.

There are additional performances of The Philadelphia Story on Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm.

By Trailer screenshot (The Philadelphia Story trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons