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In a Garden

Philip Barry, like Noel Coward, was a master at devising comedies about the rich and sophisticated. His best known play, Philadelphia Story made Katherine Hepburn a star. However, styles in comedy change with the times and when you revive a comedy from a by-gone era, it works best if the revival is cloaked in the mantel of its past hit status, and dressed up with a beautiful production and a cast with as much box office magnetism as possible. A case in point from this Broadway season: Noel Coward's Present Laughter stylishly staged and starring Frank Langella, (not to mention an adorable Dachshund), is a case in point. A case in point from Off-Broadway was The Drama Department's smart new interpretation of June Moon.

When passing those trunks filled with the less-than-spectacular works that are part of every playwright's life it's the wise producer who keeps walking and lets those sleeping flops lie in peaceful oblivion. And that's what the Pecadillo Theater Company should have done when they considered Philip Barry's In the Garden. When this rueful comedy about a woman whose dramatist husband arrogantly misunderstood her was produced on Broadway in 1925 it was a literary success but even the redoubtable Laurette Taylor in the starring role couldn't keep it running for more than a meager 40 performances. It's hardly likely that the bare-bones revival currently being given In the Garden will give Barry's play the luster it never had. The darker side of the comedy simply doesn't work here and the humor, except for a line here and there, simply doesn't resonate.

The actors are fair to middling, the direction slow and awkward. Jim Scholfield as Adrian Terry should not be asked to pick up his wife or flip himself onto a couch. The wife Lissa as played by Lillian Langford had me so worried that her 3/4 stockings would fall down, that I lost track of the lines. Speaking of lines, the best one is quoted on the program:
"The heart never tires of imagined possibilities, does it? It tires only of possibilities realized." --Adrian Terry
Substitute theater goer for heart, and it about sums up this production. You're welcome to prove me wrong in my opinion--In the Garden is set to play at the Kraine on East 4th Street through 3/16. ©right February 1997, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.

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