River Rep, the professional New York theatre troupe's second presentation of their 18th season at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse is "Light Up The Sky", a comedy written by Moss Hart. The original show opened on Broadway on November 18, !948 and ran for 214 performances. It is set in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston where the principals of a play called "The Time Is Now" by a novice writer gather on opening night. The director, lead actress, her husband and mother, producer, his wife and others are all exhilarated by the prospects of a great success. The novice writer actually made a career switch from long distance truck driver to playwright. When his play opens and the others and the audience consider it a flop, he is astounded at their turning on him. Distraught and disillusioned, he decides to leave town. However the critics like the show with the favorable news being delivered to the team members by a visiting Shriner in town for a convention at the same hotel. The play's backer retrieves the playwright from the plane and returns him to the fold. But the young and now more wary writer turns the tables on his associates and takes command. Director Warren Kelley casts these 11 roles very well and delivers much merriment to an appreciative audience by the close of the show.
Playing Irene Livingston, the diva-like actress is Jean Tefler who is superb in this role. She goes from being faint to madcap to manic to dpressed to sickly in a wink of an eye and pulls them off beautifully. She reminds you of a very young Katherine Hepburn with the delivery of her lines as this 1940's actress. Her stock broker husband, Tyler Rayburn who is thrust in her shadow is played by J.H.Torrence Downs. Tyler knows about big finances but not the theatre. J.H. does a great job as the brow beaten hubby of the star. One of the scene stealers in this show is Joan Shepard as Irene's wisecracking, gambler mother. She has some of the best one liners in this show that range from insulting people to praising them and back again. The character drinks and plays gin which she always wins. Joan is a hoot in this role. Her real life husband, Evan Thompson is very funny as the moody, weepy director who is very superstitious and believes in omens and good luck charms. He runs roughshod over everyone he works with in this play within a play, delivering many laughs while doing it.
The other scene stealers in this show are Joan and Evan's real life son, Owen Thompson who plays Sidney Black and Jackie Sidle who plays his blond, iceskating wife, Frances. Owen is a whirlwind of power and energy in this role of rich producer. His line delivery is flawless and he commands the stage with his presence. Jackie is another human dynamo with her excellent Brooklyn accent and her many one liners are hysterical. They make the perfect humorous couple with all their wonderful antics and shtick. The novice writer, Peter Sloane is played by Andrew Garman. He becomes the mouse who roared when his hurt and indignation come through when he finally stands up to the bullying tactics of the others. R. Bruce Connelly plays a more experienced writer who tries to make Peter understand the crazy world of show business. He has a wonderful comic timing and delivery to his lines and I only wished his role was larger. Elizabeth Munn who is an intern at the theatre plays Irene's ghost writer who is penning her biography. The first scene she has is with a talking parrot and later on she and Bruce have some comic scenes in the show.
Rounding out the cast is production manager, Arthur Pignataro as William Gallegher, the Shriner from Indiana who wants to invest in a Broadway show. He breathes life into this character as he gushes about show biz and the play. He brings the reviews to the hotel room and then gets thrown out the door by Owen Thompson in a comic bit. Another intern who appears in this show is Brian Kerley who plays three scripted roles and delivers a funny Greta Garbo like, "Good Evenink" as Sven, the masseuse. Stage manager, Deb Freeman keeps everyone on their toes on and off stage during this three act show. So for a wonderful evening of theatre in the lovely, air-conditioned Ivoryton Theatre, be sure to catch "Light Up The Sky"