FRONT ROW CENTER
Review by Michael Warren
LIGHT UP THE SKY
By Moss Hart
Directed by Graham Miller

     Yet again the LLT has scored with fine acting, great direction, a beautiful set—and a terrible, wordy play. How does this happen? Two of the three plays so far this season have been long-winded, navel-gazing effusions about the theater—surely a mistake from the audience’s point of view.
     Graham Miller did his best to streamline the material and actually cut large chunks out of what was a very long, not very funny play by Moss Hart. The interaction between the various characters, and inventive use of the whole stage (including an elevated entrance door to the hotel suite), were effective in keeping our attention. I felt, however, that certain elements of business were overdone—the parrot added nothing to the play (I couldn’t hear its lines anyway), and “Sidney Black” (the producer, played by Howard Feldstein) could have dispensed with his cigar at some point in the middle of the night.
     Some of the acting was a delight. Joyce Vath gave her usual polished and entertaining performance, and was very funny as the entirely self-centered and temperamental Broadway star “Irene Livingston.” And George Lugg, whose extraordinary facial expressions made me laugh even before he spoke a line, was reliably crazy and emotional as the director “Carleton Fitzgerald.” The whole play is a backstage caricature, and these two were certainly larger than life. They were well supported by Jane Isbell (as Irene’s mother) and Pat Varcoe (as the producer’s wife), who were glamorous and totally unfazed by the general first-night hysteria going on around them.
     It did seem a bit unlikely that the producer’s wife (who had invested half a million dollars in the awful, new play) would have no idea of the financial side of the business, but this did provide an excuse for Irene’s mother to explain how easy it is in the theatre to lose all your money in one night. Ray Himmelman, whom we are more accustomed to seeing in evil roles, was the established author “Owen Turner”—father-confessor to the new kid on the block—and seemed somewhat subdued and ponderous in the part.
     However, I think this was Moss Hart’s doing, as he uses Turner as a mouthpiece for his banal ideas about an author’s place in the theater (I can hear Bernard Shaw turning in his grave!). Jim Collums, a first-timer at the LLT, was believable as “Peter Sloan,” truck driver turned playwright, and was particularly good in the final scene where he was obliged to be tired, angry and sententious, all at the same time. Howard Feldstein came across reasonably well as the money behind the show. His was a difficult part, as much of the time he had to shout at other characters—a device too often used as a feeble substitute for humor.
     Other back-up parts were well played by Marian Wellman (“Miss Lowell,” Irene’s ghost-writer), Clarence Sévy (a Texas oilman), and Martin Davis (Irene’s henpecked husband). Sévy in particular was more than “very adequate” (as he describes himself in the play as a schoolboy Hamlet) in a small walk-on part. These three served mainly as an on-stage audience; one hopes that they will audition again for a more rewarding play. Unfortunately, on the night I attended, several actors stumbled over their lines, and this adversely affected the pace of the performance.
     The art-deco set was extremely well done, and the costumes were wonderful. Congratulations to the set construction and décor people (too numerous to name individually), to Nancy Kendrick for floral design, and to Marie-Lyse Jacobsmuhlen and Flo Michaloski for wardrobe. Thanks to everyone for all your hard work—onward and upward!