Sunday, August 7, 2011

Star Spangled Girl

Produced at the Wesley Arena Theatre in Cookeville, and directed by Charles Long, Star Spangled Girl is a slap stick comedy about two roommates who live in San Francisco and run an anti-establishment magazine called Fallout. When a sweet, all-American Southern girl named Sophie moves in next door it creates problems for everyone.

Friends since college, Andy Hobart and Norman Cornell are nearly as different at night and day (and closely resembling the pairings of another Simon play, The Odd Couple). Norman, played by Josh Rapp, is the eccentric genius writer; essentially the brains behind the magazine. Andy, played by Stephen Harris, is the common sense of the operation, making sure the articles get written, and working very hard to be sure that Norman stays on track and focused.

When Sophie Rauschmeyer, a beautiful, former Olympic swimmer, moves in next door, Norman immediately falls for her, causing a ton of hilarity considering Sophie, played by the lovely Holley Hughes, is a true patriot who loves her country and is as American as apple pie.
Costumes were designed by Mark & Jennifer Creter. Sophie was always dressed in beautiful, period appropriate clothing. Each of her costumes was amazing. I’ll be honest, there was one dress that I wish I lived in the sixties simply so I could go find and wear it. The men weren’t dressed as period appropriate, in my opinion, but they were in neutral enough clothing that you really didn’t pay all that much attention to it. Both men had facial hair reminiscent of the sixties, which really gave the audience the feel for the time period.

The set was the work of Charles Long and Colin Forsyth, and I thought it was brilliantly done, considering the small amount of space that the Wesley Arena Theatre offers for staging. There were some issues of visibility if you sat on the sides of the theatre, but it wasn’t horrible. My only problem was my height. The person in front of me blocked a lot of the view for one highly used area of the stage.

The best part of the entire show was the interaction between the lead actors. Their physical comedy was fantastic. Rapp had his portrayal of eccentric Norman down to a T. From his constant “smoothing” of his hair, to his innocent facial expressions when the character did something totally inappropriate (almost drowning Sophie’s cat in the toilet… yeah). When interacting with each other, Harris and Rapp had near perfect comedic timing. Some of the best scenes were the fight scenes between the two roommates.

Holley Harris played Sophie. Her classic beauty was perfect for the all-American girl role. Her Southern belle accent, I’m sure only slightly stronger than her own accent (hey, we’re all from the South, right??), was fantastic. The perfect mix between classic housewife in training, and modern woman living alone in a city far from home, Harris walked the line well and really helped to point out the changing times that were the sixties.

Occasionally I am surprised by how history repeats itself. Perhaps it’s my age, but the only thing I’ve very seen repeated are styles (some of which shouldn’t have even had their first chance). Last night I was reminded how much our current world mirrors the 1960s, the time frame in which Star Spangled Girl by Neil Simon, was both written and set. The sixties were a time of change, rebellion, anti-establishment thinking, and a time when people rarely agreed on anything. Sound familiar?

Overall, Star Spangled Girl is probably not the best story ever written, but it makes for some great laughs and has a cute story line, much like a really long episode of the I Love Lucy Show. I’m sad to say I caught the show on its closing night, but it was well worth the time. The Wesley Arena Theatre did a great job on the production.

As a final note, I have to say the show had one of the best pre-show announcements that I have ever seen in my life. Director Charles Long came out and did the announcements in 1960s public service announcement style, complete with recording and Charles Long miming the actions to the audience. I truly wish I’d recorded it because it was AMAZING!

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