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Love Goes to Press
By Elyse Sommer
Love Goes to Press was a big hit with war weary Londoners who welcomed the chance to see gun fire and bloody conflicts metamorphose into a fluffy comedy in which the big battle was the battle of the sexes. For Annabel that meant battling to keep her sexy former husband from marrying a bird-brained actress, and pilfering her assignments while Jane's battle was whether to give up the discomforts of a foreign correspondent's life for marriage to the handsome but chauvinistic Public Relations officer gung ho marry her and take her back to his Yorkshire farm.
The novice playwrights' hopes to have their heroines become roles for a pair of Hollywood's many comediennes were dashed when Love Went to Press landed with a thud on Broadway, closing within days of its opening. So it's once again up to the Mint, that tireless rescuer and resuscitator of forgotten or neglected works, to give American audiences another look at the play and in context of the nostalgic flavor acquired with age, to savor it as an old-fashioned comedy, shades of Turner Classic movies starring wise cracking '40s actresses like Rosalind Russell, Katherine Hepburn and Jean Arthur.
The good news is that this production features the lovely and talented Heidi Armbruster and Angela Pierce as Annabel and Jane. Another plus factor is that the play is intriguingly connected to another Mint production, The Fifth Column, also directed by Jerry Reiz. That play, like the current one, was a rare and little known venture into playwriting by a writer famous for work in non-theatrical genres. That writer, Ernest Hemingway, is a thinly disguised character in the Gellhorn and Cowles play — the man to whom Annabel was briefly and secretly married, as co-auther Gellhorn actually was Hemingway's at first secret third wife and eventually his ex-wife due to issues of competition. Another interesting link between the two plays: In the Hemingway play Heidi Armbruster appeared as a fictional version of Martha Gellhorn.
All this may sound like a terrific set up for the Mint to eventually remount both The Fifth Column and Love Goes to Press in repertory, but here's the the not so good news. Another thing the Gellhon/Cowles comedy has in common with Hemingway's rare play, is that neither is an especially good play and thus not the Mint's finest hour.
As Ruiz misdirected Ms. Armbruster in the Hemingway drama, his direction now fails to firmly establish Love Goes to Press as a comedy leaning strongly towards farce. Oh there are plenty of comic touches, especially from Bradford Cover as the Public Relations Officer who who does a complete turnaround about women in the press as a result of being smitten by Jane's "lovely golden hair." Neither does the plot lack farcical misunderstandings and amusing wisecracks. But with stretches when it's too talky and dull, and worse yet, doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be a light comedy with some serious undercurrents or high farce, the sum total adds up to a slight and only occasionally amusing affair. It relies too heavily on the period charms of Andrea Varga's costumes and watching copy being filed on little manual typewriters (A special bravo for program's cover illustration by Stefano Imbert).
Armbruster and White are fine but Margot White is unfortunately allowed to be too shrill and stereotypical as the mink clutching minor actress with major ambitions. The Mint's program is, as usual, chock a block with fascinating information about the two playwrights and their play's background. Given the steady hemorrhaging of print newspapers but the never ceasing trouble spots for journalists to write about, Love Goes to Press, though dated, also manages to be depressingly timely.
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