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Stage Door – Open Fist – Los Angeles Theater Review  

 

A VIEW THROUGH SCREEN DOORS 

 

stage doorTheater Review 

by Harvey Perr 

published February 7, 2010 

 

Stage Door 

now playing in Los Angeles at the Open Fist Theatre

through March 13

 

Leg fetishists are advised to run, not walk, to the Open Fist Theatre, to see the most expansive collection of nylon stockings with seams that has been assembled in ages. It will make very little difference that the aspiring young actresses who live at the Footlights Club, in this revival of Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman’s Stage Door, probably couldn’t afford such elegant hosiery, just as they couldn’t afford the terrifically ugly period costumes Shon LeBlanc has encouraged them to don with dizzying changes, because surface style would seem to be the raison-d’etre for this production.

 

There is also a set design by James Spencer that looks like the real thing, every nook and cranny covered with theatrical artifacts, cluttered and chintzy enough to move into and feel at home in. And, though a few hits from the 40s do creep in, the period music evokes the 30s with style and charm. And the wigs and hair styles add to the effect of bringing back an entire era.

 

stage doorThat about covers all that is good in this revival. It is hard to know, from most of the performances on view, if the actors are bad or if they have been trapped in a kind of stylization it would take much more practiced performers to bring to fruitful realization. (Only Arthur Hanket, as a Hollywood producer with a sentimental attachment to the theater, and Judith Scarpone, as an aging actress who runs this hotel for women, come through as real people.)  But, truthfully, the problem is the play itself. There is good reason why this play is so rarely revived. Despite Ferber and Kaufman’s obvious contempt for Hollywood as opposed to their love of “the theatuh,” the irony is that, when Hollywood got their hands on the material, they made a film that was totally different from and vastly superior to the play, one of the rare instances when this happened. Surely, Ferber and Kaufman were mortified when they saw the changes that  screenwriters Morrie Ryskind aand Anthony Veiller made, convinced that Hollywood once again showed little or no respect for the plays they bought and changed for the screen. But they were dead wrong on that occasion. The film version is more coherent and truer to the values of the theater and filled with characters that were richer and deeper than the play’s shallow stand-ins for Kaufman’s rigid point of view. The film demonstrates what the play merely iterates and re-iterates.

 

If we had got even a sliver of a hint of the wit of a bygone era as heard through the smarts Ferber and Kaufman were certainly capable of, a revival of Stage Door might have made sense, but even though a cast of 27 are working like Trojans, they are bedecked, bewigged, and bestockinged to no avail.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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