Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Philadelphia Story Opens Ivoryton Season

Classic Romantic Comedy Made Famous by Katharine Hepburn Returns to Her Old Stomping Grounds

The history of the Ivoryton Playhouse is inextricably linked to the career of Katharine Hepburn, who spent the summer of 1931 proving to local audiences that she was leading lady material before heading off to Hollywood and stardom, so it seems a fitting choice for the theater to open its 99th season with Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story.

Barry wrote The Philadelphia Story in 1939 specifically for Ms. Hepburn, who ended up backing the play, and foregoing a salary in return for a percentage of the play's profits. Co-starring with Hepburn on Broadway were Joseph Cotten, Van Heflin and Shirley Booth . The play opened in late March 1939 and ran for a full year with more than 400 performances and a nationwide tour. The play was a great success on Broadway, and the subsequent movie with Cary Grant and James Stewart was Hepburn's first great triumph after several movie flops had led to movie theater owners including her on a list of actors viewed as "box office poison." The movie garnered six Academy Award nominations and won two.

The Philadelphia Story is an intelligent, sophisticated, classic romantic comedy (part screwball) of love and marriage, human growth and class distinctions. The setting of the play is among the privileged upper class society in Philadelphia. Haughty divorced socialite Tracy Lord is preparing for her second marriage to a dull, self-made businessman. Enter C.K. Dexter Haven, her dashing first husband, and Macaulay Connor, a cynical tabloid reporter with a distrust of the wealthy. What follows is a rapid-fire war of words as the two men try to help Tracy discover the heart beneath her holier-than-thou exterior.

Ivoryton’s Producing Artistic Director, Jacqueline Hubbard directs the production with Brenda Withers as Tracy , Christian Pederson as Haven, Madison native Matthew DeCapua as Connor and Caroline Strong as Liz Imbrie. The cast also includes Geoffrey Murphy as George, Jennifer Leigh Cohen as Dinah and Thomas Layman as Sandy Lord. The Philadelphia Story marks the return of other Ivoryton favorites, Norm Rutty, Bif Carrington III, Donna Schilke and Don Shirer. Set design is by Tony Andrea, lighting is by Doug Harry, and costumes are by Pam Puente.

The Philadelphia Story opens on March 10-28. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8. Tickets are $38 for adults, $33 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting the website at http://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org/ (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton. Pictured, from left, DeCapua, Pedersona and Withers.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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