THEATER: “His Girl Friday” @ Barrington Stage Co. [Berkshire On Stage]
Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: A gleeful depiction of life in the pressroom at Chicago Police Headquarters, His Girl Friday has it all – comedy, farce, drama, tragedy and romance. It’s a super-sized tale that sweeps across the stage at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, boasting a huge cast of twenty. While set in 1939, the outing is filled with terrorists, crooked politicians and lazy journalists that could be told today. The story is as fresh as if was pulled from the headlines – those of a comic book or the headline crawl under a Fox News report. John Guare, who revisited the original play and film has mashed the two together for a delightful evening of serious romance with some of the funniest antics seen onstage in the Berkshires in a long time.
Gail M. Burns: The play is screwball romantic comedy layer on top of a most serious crime drama. In August, 1939, in Chicago, a Czech immigrant, now an American citizen, named Earl Holub (Ethan Dubin) is condemned to be hanged for killing a police officer. The press has assembled in the Criminal Courts Press Room overlooking the scaffold in the square below, waiting for the execution, which the Mayor (Robert Zuckerman) and the Sheriff (Rocco Sisto) have rushed through the courts to win the large German voting bloc in the imminent election. Even Walter Burns (Christopher Innvar), editor of The Chicago Record, deigns to put in an appearance, and so does his ex-wife and ace reporter, Hildy Johnson (Jane Pfitsch), who is passing through town with her fiancé Bruce Baldwin (Mark H. Dold), an insurance salesman, and his overbearing mother (Peggy Pharr Wilson), on their way to the Baldwin’s home in Albany, where Hildy and Bruce will be married the next day. The story gets going when Holub escapes and goes on the lam, and everyone suspects either the Dutch police officer Woodenshoes (Ben Caplan) or the prostitute Mollie Malloy (Anya Whelan Smith), neither of whom is the guilty party.