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A CurtainUp Review
The Show-Off

Everyone will have trouble if they live long enough. — Mrs. Fisher
Annette O'Toole and Ian Gould (photo credit: Carol Rosegg)
Savoring the flavor of nostalgia can be rewarding for both theater artists and the audience. George Kelly's 1924 consistently amusing dramatic comedy shows how un-musty a 93 year-old play can be thanks to the adroitly addressed direction of Dan Wackerman and his responsive ensemble.

The Show-Off will be somewhat of a pleasant surprise for those unfamiliar with the subtle layer of impertinence that permeates the play. It traces the cataclysmic series of trials and errors a middle-class Philadelphia family suffers from the irresponsible behavior of a boastful, obnoxious and clownish $32 a week railroad clerk.

A love-struck wife and dumbstruck in-laws would be no match for this almost Tartuffe-like tooter were it not for the incessantly chattering mother-in-law who loses not a beat to this close to overbearing braggart. The audience responded guardedly at first and then with increased enthusiasm to the slowly developed plot. It remains for the many splendid performers and their delivery of Kelly's crisp dialogue to glide over the play's few exposed seams. At no point do we laugh at this somewhat quaint play or the players, only with them and because of them.

I mention this only to assure you that this is no resurrected trifle, but a well-written and worthy revival of a comedy classic. Whether guarding a box of bonbons like a greedy child or casually voicing her ingrained bigotries including opera ("that Dago singing") a feisty Annette O'Toole appears to be relishing each and all of her caustic zingers.

Making an impressive Peccadillo Theater Company debut, is Ian Gould as The Show-Off a.k.a_Aubrey Piper. It is to Gould's credit that Aubrey's ebullient displays of outlandish panache define a character that satirically re-creates the "fop" of Restoration comedy.

Kelly made sure we never dislike Aubrey despite his incorrigibility as a huckster and, worse, a liar. However pathetic in his self-delusions and always confident manner, Aubrey's believability comes from a boyish innocence that begs understanding before condemnation. Gould nails it.

As Clara, the stylish, unhappily wed sister, Elise Hudson delivers the obligatory air of condescension toward her love-blinded sister Amy (Emma Orelove) and with more overt disdain to Aubrey. The charming Ms. Orelove never wavers in her defense of her man. Aaron Gaines is amusingly blank as Clara's indifferent husband with more verve coming from Tirosh Schneider, as Joe the brainy younger brother. They contribute nicely to the play's frantic and funny resolve.

Costume designer Barbara A. Bell evokes the mid-twenties with humor. There is an eye full of well-worn furnishings in the impressive living room-plus setting created by Harry Feiner. But mainly it is the ear-full of Kelly's snappy talk that will keep a smile on your face.

The APA Phoenix revived The Show-Off in 1968 as did the Roundabout Theatre in 1992 when it starred Boyd Gaines in the titular role. There are three film versions, one silent in 1926 and then a version with Spencer Tracy in 1934 followed by one with Red Skelton in 1946.

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The Show-Off by George Kelly
Directed by Dan Wackerman

Cast: Elise Hudson (Clara), Annette O'Toole (Mrs. Fisher), Emma Orelove (Amy), Aaron Gaines (Frank Hyland), Ian Gould (Aubrey Piper), Douglas Rees (Mr. Fisher), Tirosh Schneider (Joe), Marvin Bell (Mr. Gill), Buzz Roddy (Mr. Rogers)
Scenic & Lighting Design: Harry Feiner
Costume Design: Barbara A. Bell
Sound Design: Quentin Chiappetta
Production Stage Manager: David Apichell
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission
Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 W. 46th Street
Ovationtix at 866-811- 4111
Tickets: $49.00
From 09/21/17 Opens 09/28/17 Ends 10/21/17
Wednesdays at 7PM; Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM; and Sundays at 3PM. (Additional performance on Monday, September 25th at 7 PM). Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on matinee performance 09/24/17

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