‘Philadelphia Story’ frivolity: Theater captures color, drama of timeless tale
In the depths of young adulthood, most young ladies dream of being lost in the lust of a handsome man’s affection. In fact, it might be said this dream situation cooked up by women in their early 20s involves not just one man leaping at the chance to catch their eye, but two or three men willing to duel for love and see who will make it out on top.
Although this fantasy appears to be unlikely, such is the predicament of Tracy Lord’s character in Pioneer Theatre Company’s production of Philip Barry’s “The Philadelphia Story,” running from Jan. 11 to Jan. 26.
On the eve of her wedding, it appears Lord has it all — a handsome fiancé, a luxurious wardrobe, tons of money and a charming ex-husband.
Yes, the young Lord was married once before, and her ex-husband C. K. Dexter Haven has no intention of walking away from their instantaneous marriage quietly. To add a punch to the plot of this 1930s play, the journalist who accompanies Dexter also has his eye on the elegant Lord.
Caught in the throes of three men’s adorations, Lord’s decisions and actions prove to be the recipe for what play director Jenn Thompson calls “a champagne bubble of an evening.”
Champagne and fun aside, Thompson said “The Philadelphia Story” is a timeless depiction of a life lesson lived out by most post-adolescent people.
“When you’re a young woman in your 20s, you think you know everything and everything is in black and white,” Thompson said.
Not having much in common with the main character, Thompson said she, similar to Lord, learned her vision of life had little gray area. In addition to Thompson, lead actress Allison McLemore, who plays Lord, agrees she too had growing pains when looking past the world of black and white.
When McLemore graduated from college, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting. As most know, New York is a hodgepodge of cultures and ideas. Embracing the lifestyle of so many different people, McLemore was able to break the idea that everything has a polar opposite.
McLemore said her encounters with New York City have aided her in the world of acting, particularly when it comes to her role as Tracy Lord, for McLemore had to break past the black and white images of Cary Grant, James Stuart and Katharine Hepburn swimming in her head.
Such famous actors transpired the themes of “The Philadelphia Story” on the big screen in 1940. Taking on a role played by the iconic Hepburn would be intimidating to most, and for McLemore it was at first.
After reading the script, dressing in costume and getting to know the ins and outs of Lord, McLemore crashed past the iconic idea of “The Philadelphia Story” to make the character of Lord unique to this on-stage production.
Both McLemore and Thompson think this production of “The Philadelphia Story” is one that most anyone can relate to.
So whether you experienced your early 20s in the ’50s, ’90s, or are living them out now, the Pioneer Theatre Company hopes this rendition of the play will prove to be something that escapes the historical context of time and connects to all people — young and old.
“This is a young person’s play about young people,” Thompson said. “It’s a very forgiving look at love and marriage.”
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