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Pioneer Theatre Company: The Philadelphia Story

Older works of art often provide a challenge to contemporary sensibilities. How hard is it to appreciate a deeper layer of meaning when the stuff that’s on the surface can make us immediately uncomfortable?

Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story brings the benefit of audience familiarity with the classic 1940 film adaptation, yet it’s also a story that makes joking reference to a woman having been married to an alcoholic wife-beater. That woman is Tracy Lord (Allison McLemore, pictured left), a Philadelphia socialite whose whirlwind 10-month marriage to C.K. Dexter Haven (Todd Gearhart, pictured right) is the past; her impending high-profile second marriage to George Kittredge (Jay Stratton) is the story of the moment—a big enough story that reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (Todd Lawson) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Margaret Nichols) are being sent in undercover to capture the details.

The performances in Pioneer Theatre Company’s production require some settling into; McLemore occasionally feels as though she’s mimicking Katharine Hepburn’s iconic performance from the film, while Lawson similarly feels at times like he’s channeling Jimmy Stewart. But the entire cast eventually proves winningly funny, with particular charming support provided by Gearhart’s Haven and Bailee Johnson as Tracy’s precocious adolescent sister.

Most significantly, though, director Jenn Thompson and McLemore’s performance steer the tone away from the potentially off-putting material toward a satisfying tale of a young woman rethinking herself and her idea of love. It’s too funny and frisky to be swallowed whole by its more retro sensibility. (Scott Renshaw)

Date: Jan 17, 2013
Time: 8 pm
Phone: 801-581-6356
Address: 300 S 1400 E, Salt Lake City, 84112
Where: Pioneer Memorial Theatre