Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 18, 2015

His Girl Friday

Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, MA
through August 30, 2015
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Kevin Sprague
Achieving high ranking status on the numerous lists of Best Screwball Comedies is “His Girl Friday.” The important characteristic of this film genre is lead female vs lead male. The smart, sassy, and sexy woman plays offense to the bright, bold, and buff man’s defense in what quickly becomes verbal warfare at its funniest.  Soon the game reverses offense/defense, then again, to the audience’s delight. Revving the already fast paced banter up a few notches, and Barrington Stage’s “His Girl Friday” is the epitome of screwball.

Playwright John Guare morphs the original scripts for “Friday” with “The Front Page” to pen a comedy that defies criticism of any importance. Julianne Boyd moves her large cast (some in double roles) smoothly and slickly when required, other times bumbling and buffoonish on the large, well-crafted set of a courthouse’s press room. Every detail in this large room is perfectly designed for the era.

The year is 1939 at the cusp of WWII, when most people in Chicago are slow to recognize the fate of Europe, the world, and the U.S. (in that order). A serious story gives the play its subject matter full of racism, isolationism, ignorance. Important questions run throughout the play -- what is the truth, who defines it, and how do newspaper men report the “facts”?

Barrington “regular” Christopher Innvar presents our erstwhile hero Walter with charm and bravado, as a cunning man with not only a nose for news, but his whole being. He eats, drinks, and sleeps it. No wonder his wife divorced him. Even though Walter is a cad, we like him and Innvar.

Mark H. Dold -- another regular (Barrington boasts the best actors in the Berkshires) -- portrays Walter’s antithesis as mama’s boy Bruce. This intense actor, so wonderful in dramatic roles, can play comedy too! In what could have been a cliched role, Dold and Boyd have put every comedic nuance in the character’s words, face, and body, all of which make him a "real" person. We miss Bruce when he’s not onstage.

The boys are very good, but Jane Pfitsch (screwball heroine news gal Hildy) commands the show. Pfitsch looks and sounds exactly as Hildy should be. The actress and her character are the glue that hold the plot and sub-plot together. Hildy is a sharp woman, seemingly all business -- one of the boys. At the same time, Pfitsch graces Hildy with a hidden softness that there is no doubt she loves Walter. The actress is new to Barrington -- let’s hope she stays.