Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pillow Talk Turned Theatrical

By Betsy Love

My life is nuts right now. Marsha suggested I use one of my papers from one of my classes. One of the Assignments we had to do was to see a play and then write a reaction to it. So friends, Mormons, and countrymen or women as the case may be, lend me your ear...or eyes. Below is what I turned in to my instructor. Not to be a braggart, but I am number one in this class.

Pillow Talk Turned Theatrical

Christopher Sergal’s play Pillow Talk produced at the Hale Theater is endearing from the moment the main characters walk on stage. Anyone in the older audience who has seen the movie Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson and Doris Day will remember the story of duplicity and feigned innocence. This romantic comedy pits a man and woman against each other as they share a party line. Jan is utterly frustrated by Brad who is constantly on the phone singing love songs to his many conquests. The plot thickens when we learn that the man who is seeking Jan’s affections and a yes to a marriage proposal is also the best friend and musical producer for Brad. When Brad meets Jan at a night club, he realizes that she could be his next conquest, but not as Brad but as the charming, out-of-town, wealthy Texan. He then sets out to woo Jan, who falls immediately for him without realizing that she is in actuality falling for the man she hates. Through their dating Brad realizes that he is indeed in love with Jan and is willing to give up all of his other women and settle down with Jan. Of course the problem is that he knows that Jan hates him.

The characters fit the formula for a romance. She is an uptight, prudish virgin more interested in her career than romance. He is the epitome of a “player”. What woman can resist a rogue? The play is cleverly written, the plot complex enough to keep the viewer wondering whether it will end well. As in any great “feel good” story, the happy-ever-after ending seems impossible in the final act, but manages to have that happy ending after all.

The show, done in the round (arena), managed to pull off two apartment living rooms with multiple entrances in a small stage area. Jan’s apartment, complete with its decorator feminine touches and set dressings, contrasted sharply with Brad’s apartment, which was bold, with sharp lines and angles. Before the characters set foot on the stage their differences were obvious. While theater in the round has its challenges in directing, the director kept the characters moving so that the actors’ faces were viewable by most of the audience most of the time. One of the creative concepts for the play was the walk through New York done with gobos of skyscrapers projected on two of the back walls above the audience, which gave a great read of the city lights. Two problems with the sets created visual difficulties for some of the audience. Both were scenes set on the balconies. A table placed too close to the rail blocked the view of the actors for those sitting beneath the scene. The second problem was a shiny backdrop which created a glare when the lights shined on it so that actors couldn’t be seen except as silhouettes. The actors did a great job in portraying their characters. The real star of the show was that of Jan’s maid Alma, played by Barbara McGrath. McGrath is a three time ariZonie award winner and has been acting since the 1960’s. Her eavesdropping, advice toting character livened any scene she appeared in. Hethyre Baez as Jan kept the audience enthralled with her comical facial expressions. After a weak start, Scott Duncan as Brad Allen really seemed to get into his role within the next couple of scenes. There is nothing more frustrating for an audience than to not be able to hear the actors, however the sound was excellent. This production made sure that the actors could be heard.

Viewing this production after class lectures and discussions, it was interesting to view the play critically. Pillow Talk was a straight-forward romantic comedy. The characters were strong, but the supporting characters were stronger. Without the eccentricities of the maid, the homosexual tendencies of Jan’s decorating partner, and the jealousies of Jonathon (the man pursuing her), the play wouldn’t be nearly as funny. Characterization definitely played a strong factor in the play. The duplicity of Brad fit the concept of Aristotle’s plot for using mistaken identities to create comedy. Sitting in the audience, I started thinking about the concepts and things I needed to be looking for, but very soon after the play began, I became so caught up in the moment of the play that I had a hard time focusing on anything but what was happening on the stage. That is what makes a great play; when the reviewer becomes so engrossed in what is happening that all else falls away. For those two hours the audience becomes wrapped up in the lives of someone else, and being sincerely concerned about their outcome.

Pillow Talk is a must see. The script is cleverly written, with lines that keep the audience laughing from one quip to the next. Having seen both the movie and the play, there is nothing more satisfying than watching a three dimensional production over a movie. The acting was believable, the sets creatively done, especially considering the limited space, the sound and lighting well done as well. This play runs through June 30th and is well worth $18 a ticket.

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Let me try this again! I liked your essay - I wonder if the Mesa Tribune will have a new theater critic? I love the Hale theater and the theater in the round - you reminded me how much! Good for you to be the top student in the class. That always feels good. Wish everyone had a shot at it for at least a day or two. Think what it would do for self-esteem. Best of luck, Rene

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  3. Betsy, I felt as if I were right there in the theater! Excellent description. I can see why you're top in the class. I remember the movie, and you've quite persuaded me to see the play. The written word is, indeed, powerful.
    G'don ya!
    Anna.

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  4. Betsy, your essay made me want to get right on the phone and order tickets! I love old movies and I have seen Pillow Talk many times. You made the play sound like so much fun! Hurrah for #1!

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  5. Betsy,
    You make me want to get on a plane to Arizona to see this play. Well done!

    The great thing about a class like that is, in retrospect, as you think about the play, the critiquing will begin, and you will see the strong as well as the weak.

    Well done! Rene's comment about you as a theatre critic is spot on.

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