The Play’s the Thing, City Lit Theater Company. City Lit is in familiar territory with P.G. Wodehouse’s adaptation of Ferenc Molnar’s supple 1926 comedy. So it’s not surprising that Terry McCabe’s theatrically assured, combustibly comic staging is superior to Borealis Theatre’s revival two months ago.
Smart casting and pacing make this delightful script hum. The sardonic story depicts an elaborate stratagem: playwright Sandor keeps from promising young composer Albert the knowledge of his actress-fiancee Ilona’s dalliance with the self-inflated Almady, a married thespian who persists in pursuing his protegee. The play is both convincingly cynical, denying the idea that the truth sets anyone free, and idealistic: art does have the power to improve on life. The one curious misconception is that artists require happiness for inspiration: experience shows how much more often they thrive on sorrow.
Setting the perfect note of sophisticated optimism, Page Hearn’s Sandor is worldly-wise and wickedly witty, his buoyancy tempered by the pessimism of Will Schutz as his dour collaborator, Mansky. Cameron Feagin convinces as the capricious actress, while Craig Bryant’s hammy Almady earns his punishment. Slight shortfalls: Brian Pastor as young Albert wastes time being gawky when he should register the character’s heartbreak, and Thomas M. Shea’s servant would be much funnier if his accent weren’t so infuriatingly indeterminate.