Come on down to Tacoma Little Theare and get your red, white and blue on! Until Sept. 27 TLT is staging the Neil Simon play “The Star-Spangled Girl,” and it’s definitely worth the ticket price.
“The Star-Spangled Girl” is a comedy Simon wrote in 1966-67. The inspiration for this play came after Simon’s many other successes when he felt the need to be “more political.” Since then the play has been adapted for Broadway and made into a film in 1971. In TLT’s version, the play is directed by Elliot Weiner and stars Luke Amundson as Andy Hobart, Blake R. York as Norman Cornell, and Gretchen Boyt as Sophie Rauschmeyer.
The fast-paced play gives a look into the lives of three young adults during the height of the late ‘60s explosion of politics, expression and love. Friends Andy and Norman write, publish and sell a radical magazine called “Fallout,” which is dedicated to fighting the system. Enter Sophie, an all-American Olympic swimmer - placing fifth out of five - from Arkansas, who moves into the apartment next door. It’s love at first sight for Norman and his mad-cap obsession turns everything upside down for the aspiring journalists. The play also focuses on Andy and Sophie’s confrontations on what constitutes being a “true American” from two extreme perspectives that constantly clash on that issue.
The events in “The Star Spangled Girl” happen within a duplex studio apartment. When I read that in the program, on went the skepticism goggles. I was thinking “Okay, seriously, how can a play only occur in one area for two hours (without it getting old)?” Well, it’s quite easy apparently. The time frame of the events - based on my calculations courtesy of the program - is about a week and a half to two weeks (but don’t quote me on that). Also, the friends operate their magazine in their apartment, as in no real need for outside contact as far as their job is concerned. I loved how unique and simply genius that was. Even when events required other scenery, it wasn’t so pertinent to make another backdrop or move the story to a different location. The main focus was this apartment, the “home front.”
The other thing that intrigued me about the play was that it was only a three-person cast. There were other characters mentioned and in some scenes those other characters were pertinent to the events of that moment, but the actors improvised interacting with those characters. For example, there were numerous scenes where Andy had to deal with their death-defying landlady. Whether it’s a phone call or (perceived) actual contact, it takes a lot to convincingly improvise interacting with a nonexistent being.
Lastly, my favorite character was Norm. I know it’s strange to like a borderline stalker, as Norm is, but he’s also endearing. He really is in love - well, extremely attracted at least - with Sophie to the point where you can almost turn a blind eye to his antics. Having seen York’s acting abilities before, I find him genuine, funny and lively. He has tremendous comedic timing with his physical acting, words and facial expressions. His character was a good balance for straight-laced Andy and over-the-top Sophie.
Show times for “The Star Spangled Girl” are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Although the content of the play is fairly tame, it might not be for younger children under the age of 13, as they may not understand many of the political and cultural references. There is also very mild language. Ticket prices run from $16-$24. This play is truly a classic and well worth viewing.
The Tacoma Little Theatre is located at 210 N. ‘I’ St., and the venue is wheelchair accessible. For more information or to order tickets, call (253) 272-2281 or visit www.tacomalittletheatre.com.
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