1st Stage HolidayBy Mark Lee Adams • Nov 3rd, 2010 • Category: Reviews
1st Stage, Tyson’s Corner, VA
Through November 14th
Reviewed October 22nd, 2010
Holiday – A wonderful play is being performed at 1st Stage. The story is reminiscent of a Noel Coward play with a setting in America. Although, in a Coward play, the divide between the rich and the poor wasn’t ventured as it is with this Philip Barry play. All in all this play is a play worth seeing.
As one walks into the 1st Stage theatre you are met with a very nice lobby area. Entering the theatre doors takes you up a short flight of stairs (with motion censored lights – cool!). The seating is stadium like and all will look down to the stage floor. The seats are very comfortable and you will feel immediately at ease with room to spare.
The set was a single room in the opulent home yet sparse of any set dressing. Also of note was there was no credit given in the playbill to any set designer, so I won’t critique the set. I do believe dressing the set with more opulence would’ve added to the story being told. On opening night, there were insufficient drapes to hide the exits of the actors.
The lighting design was ok, but I thought the backlighting of the windows was too bright. Ah yes, 1st Stage does have a designer for this show; Jim Alexander. He gave the stagelights a high setting and made it quite bright, almost glaringly for most of the show. This full lighting was very bright against the white-white flats and black and white checkered flooring.
Special kudos to Deb Crerie (Props). It is always a difficult job to get a heavily laden propped show just right. Deb obviously took great care in making the props work.
Costume Designer, Cheryl Patton Wu did a marvelous job with this production. Her Roaring Twenties dresses and suits really gave this cast every opportunity to shine. Well done indeed.
It is every actor’s responsibility to give their character a definiteness of purpose. When the actor moves, there must be a reason for it. These reasons are the result of work on each actor’s objective(s) in a specific scene without deterring from the main objective of the playwright. The movements and objectives are under the strict control of the director, Dawn McAndrews. In this production, there were times when there was true magic on stage. This magic was a welcome relief when it came, but it came all too late. There were moments that sparkled at the beginning of the show. The role of Julia Seton, played nicely by Sophia Bushong had some nice moments with her character’s fiancé Johnny Case, played by John Adams, son of a grocer and a self made man who became a lawyer with a dream. John was quite dashing and sure of foot as he was introduced to the home of his fiancé (They met only 10 days previously). He did seem unsure of what to do with his hands at times. Should he hold his jacket open or put his hands in his pocket? John has a great smile and ease of manner with those in high society but I didn’t see the down to earth Johnny Case. Wish I had.
Some of the magic showed itself in the embodiment of one character. That character is Linda Seton, sister to Julia and quite the opposite of her sibling. This role was brilliantly portrayed by Allison Leigh Corke. Allison brought to life a woman who was in conflict with her own upbringing and surroundings. She yearned for a simpler lifestyle brought about by love. I was so impressed by Allison’s stage presence, her command of the nuance required to pull this role off and her complete understanding of the stylistic show the playwright, Philip Barry had written. Allison’s scenes with her characters friends Nick And Susan Potter, played respectively by Theodore M. Snead & Jessica Aimone, were electric. Allison, Theodore and Jessica with some very nice moments with the characters of Laura & Seton Cram, played by Elizabeth Darby and David Winkler made this production well worth seeing. Her character’s desires were so convincing and so real. She’s an actress to follow. Allison Leigh Corke is going places!
I particularly missed what should’ve been a growing fondness of Linda Seton by Johnny Case. He seemed all too concerned with himself than what his words were declaring. Another note is some of the blocking of these actors. Way too many times these actors were placed with their backs to the audience. This is ok at times to keep the play real, but too many times we were robbed of wonderful performance of Allison, other than the back of her dress, and instead were forced to watch the reactions of the other actors (which weren’t there) to assist in understanding the play.
It is my hope that this run will grow by its close that the set will have some setting and some of the actors will listen more and fidget less.
This play runs 2 and a half hours and dragged too much on opening. I’m sure it’s tightened up in future shows.
The years between World War I and Black Tuesday were a time of great prosperity and cultural upheaval in the Unite States. The country was in celebration mode, dancing the Charleston, listening to jazz, and watching Valentino at the movies. Suffragettes won the right to vote and, as if in response, hemlines went up, way up, and women flooded the workplace. Prohibition made it illegal to produce or sell liquor, so Americans drank more than ever. F. Scott Fitzgerald, chronicler of the decade called it “the greatest, the gaudiest spree in history.” The modern was in, way in, in fashion, society, and culture.
Then, like now, the divide between rich and poor was widening as immigrants and African Americans were left out of the celebration of ever-increasing wealth. Then like now, citizens of all classes were enthralled by celebrities and the lives they led-from Ernest Hemingway to Dorothy Parker, Duke Ellington to Cole Porter, Greta Garbo to Babe Ruth. Then, like now, the bubble would burst forcing all Americans to examine their greed, ambition, and pursuit of happiness.
Philip Barry brought Holiday to the stage in 1928 unaware of the financial disaster that was on its way October 29, 1929. His bright, upper-class comedy about the clash between love and money and the drive to truly know oneself was a tremendous success in its day; made into not one but two movies in the 1930s.
Into Seton’s world of unimaginable wealth, Barry drops Johnny Case a self-made man who has worked hard to earn the time to figure out who he is and of what he is made. In a country truly coming of age, Barry’s play offers a snapshot of longing, and like the typical Horatio Alger story, provides not one but two heroes on whom we can pin hopes and dreams. Unlike lesser dramatists, Barry crafts compeling, three-dimensional characters in heightened situations where determining which point of view is right and which is wrong isn’t always so easy. And he makes us laugh all the while.
For our 21st –century audience, it is an opportunity to view a time past that informs the present and to revel in an underdog story that resonates just as powerfully today.
Photos provided by 1st Stage.
Disclaimer: 1st Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
- Julia Seton: Sophia Bushong
- Delia: Leigh Taylor Patton
- Johnny Case: John adams
- Linda Seton: Allison Leigh Corke
- Ned Seton: Ryan Kincaid
- Edward Seton: Paul Douglas Michnewicz
- Laura Cram: Elizabeth Darby
- Seton Cram: David Winkler
- Nick Potter: Theodore M. Snead
- Susan Potter: Jessica Aimone
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5803.
Mark Lee Adams has been involved in theatre for over 40 years in the local Washington DC Metro area as well as NYC and London England. Mark has performed at the Dramatist Guild Theatre on Broadway, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Off-Broadway. His credits include work in many local theatres as well: The Folger Theatre Group, Arena Stage, New Playwrights Theatre, 7th Street Players, The Keegan Theatre, The American Century Theatre, The Journeyman Theatre, ASTA Theatre, The Hayloft Dinner Theatre (Associate Producer), The Lazy Susan Theatre, Discovery Channels, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (Frankenstein) with Donald Sutherland. London, England credits include work at: The Duke of York Theatre, Roundhouse Theatre, The Questors Theatre, The British Embassy Players. Mark is a graduate of The Drama Studio, London, England. Mark is also a narrator of audio books for Gildan Audio: “True North”, by Bill George; “Never Give Up”, by Tedy Bruschi and “Five Minds for the Future”, by Howard Gardner among them. Mark currently teaches Advanced Acting at The Little Theatre of Alexandria and still performs locally in many theatres.