-by Cherie Messore, Monday, April 23, 2018
The grace and elegance of the upper-crust 1930s society- warts and all – is all part of ‘The Awful Truth’ staged by the Irish Classical Theatre Company. Yes, plenty of pricey perfume may hide the unsavory scent of deception, but when the smell is intoxicatingly sweet and pleasant, do we really care?
. . .this rarely produced work is staged with flair and the cast shines.
This show is a charmer. The stage version had a brief Broadway run and later inspired the film starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. More character driven than the more familiar film, this works well for ICTC’s fine ensemble cast. When Lucy (played by Diane Curley) was married to Norman (Adrian Gatto), she cheated on him with Rufus (Chris Kelly). Shock: she’s a divorcee! Now she’s angling to marry Texas oil baron Daniel Leeson (Eric Rawski) and stern faced mama Mrs. Leeson (Ellen Horst) is suspicious. She’s heard plenty of gossip. After all she says, “Rumors don’t usually live this long without some basis of fact.” Daniel is a straight speaking earnest fellow after all, a bit of a braggart with new money, and his mother knows deep down that Lucy is no innocent ingénue, with her snappy retorts and distressingly flippant attitude toward marriage. Could she be the real woman for Daniel and the mother of his children? “Our children,” Daniel says solemnly, “are the Americans of tomorrow.”
Cue the machinations as Lucy tries to hang on to her engagement (he’s wealthy, she’s flits under the facade to support her carefree lifestyle) while dealing with authentic matters of heart. Ah, the struggles of the lovely and in demand.
This is what Irish Classical does so well: this rarely produced work is staged with flair and the cast shines. Curley is sweetly sly and cleverly cunning in her role as the scheming Lucy. With a cascade of wavy hair, she reminded me of Rita Hayworth as Gilda. Rawski – as skilled a character actor as any – is full of Texas bravado but his accent is nondescript and wobbly. Gatto is suave as wronged husband Norman Satterly, the epitome of Art Deco debonair. Maura Nolan and Zak Ward are admirable as Josie and Eustace Trent, the best friends who know Lucy’s secrets. Ward perfectly underplays his role against Nolan’s perkiness. Chris Kelly is Rufus, the root of the scandal, and he’s solid as the “other man.” Maria Caruso shows her comic flair as Celeste the maid who also opens the show by displaying the credits on stage on placards, styled with a nostalgic nod to the film. Director Fortunato Pezzimenti knows how to use this stage and house so well. Look around the walls for backlit sculptures suggesting a city skyline.
The costumes, lighting, and overall tone have the visual “feel” of a black and white film, too. From obvious things (the period furnishings are painted – you guessed it – black and white), to the subtle washes of color (Lucy’s pale peachy blouse in one scene would read as gray scale on the silver screen of yore), the mood is pure vintage. Yes, back to the good ol’ days, when infidelities were whispered and not shouted, and scandals had indignant albeit forgivable memories. Sift beneath the surface of Arthur Richman’s rather shallow plotline to remember that true love sometimes escapes our grasp and yes, even rich oil barons should listen to their mothers.