Review: ‘Star-Spangled Girl’ turns on witty, fast-paced dialogue
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
You have to appreciate a play in which audience members are handed flowers on the way in, “White Rabbit” is on the soundtrack, a lava lamp figures prominently as a prop and a life-sized cut-out photo of Albert Einstein (Call him Al) plays the straight man.
‘The Star-Spangled Girl’
What: Neil Simon’s romantic comedy about two underground magazine publishers and the flag-waving girl who moves in above them
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 3
Where: Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main St.
Tickets: $12, $10 students, seniors, educators and military personnel
Info: 505-868, Acrosstown.org
Terry Beauchamp, who directs Neil Simon’s 1967 play “The Star-Spangled Girl,” at the Acrosstown Repertory Theater, says she was looking to recapture “the feeling of the ’60s generation of protests.” And while a comedy about two radical journalists whose lives are, well, radically disrupted by an earnestly patriotic young woman and self-described “religious follower of Sports Illustrated” may seem a little dated in an era of Wikileaks and tea party hubris, “Star-Spangled” is not without its underlying political message.
To wit: Beware the creeping evolution of a police state. “First they start burning books and then they keep men out of the women’s pool.”
In truth, this play has nearly nothing to do with politics or clashing ideologies. Like many of Simon’s plays this one is of the boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl genre. But as Paul McCartney famously asked of silly love songs, “What’s wrong with that?”
Very little, in fact. “Star Spangled” turns on witty, fast-paced dialogue and a small troupe of hard working actors who make up in enthusiasm what they may lack in poise and delivery.
Actor Will Winter is Andy Hobart, the penniless publisher of the San Francisco rag Fallout. And if you saw the 1971 film version of the play, you may notice that Winter does a pretty good job of channeling Tony Roberts’ version of his character, right down to his facial expressions, body language and speech patterns.
Fallout’s single bankable asset is Hobart’s childhood friend and staffer Norman Cornell, played by Tim Stevens. Cornell’s prodigious output makes him “14 of the best writers around today.” How good is this guy? At Dartmouth he won a prize for writing an essay about the economics of the Philippines since 1930, “without any previous knowledge of the Philippines Islands, 1930 or economics.” Now he spends his days in a shabby apartment pounding out exposes that demand, “Was LBJ on LSD?” Stevens delivers his writer-without-a-life-suddenly-turned-demented-suitor persona with a smooth sense of comic timing.
Enter, Sophie Rauschmeyer (aka “Arkansas frangipani,” aka “Corn-fed Minnie Mouse”). As American as apple pie apparently isn’t, Sophie’s wants to redeem herself as an Olympic swimmer, having tragically come in fifth at Tokyo, just behind Egypt. She moves into the apartment upstairs, whereupon Norman falls in love at first smell and immediately develops writers block. Hobart, who is already being forced to make nice with his elderly landlady (Karelisa Hartigan) in order to avoid eviction, reacts badly and comic chaos ensues.
Sophie is nicely played by Norma Berger, who lays on a Southern-fried accent as thick as corn pone and manages a radiant smile that looks physically painful to maintain. “Will you cut it out,” Hobart demands, “you look like a demented ventriloquist.” And she does, and it works.
In the end, if you are looking for a message in “Star Spangled Girl” this is it: The best way to a man’s heart is through his olfactory system. Sniff this one out at the Acrosstown.