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City Nights opens its 19th Season with  Neil Simon's

Star Spangled Girl

 

Directed by Doug Macaskill

 

Cast

Andy Hobart - Scott Morency
Sophie Rauschmeyer - Elena Sloop
Norman Cornell - Richard Bento

Star Spangled Girl is clearly and simply a failure, as far as I'm concerned. It's the only play I ever wrote where I did not have a clear visual image of the characters in my mind as I sat down at the typewriter. Walter Kerr wisely wrote, "Neil Simon didn't have an idea for a play this year, but he wrote it anyway." Thank you, Walter.

   NEIL SIMON
   Los Angeles, Nov. 7th, 1977
   (McGovern, 1979)

Reviewed by Don Gillis, January 10, 2003

Above are the words right out of the author's mouth, but as I sat and watched the talents of Scott Morency, Richard Bento, and Elena Sloop, I dismissed Simon's perception of his own work.  These three fine actors keep you quite entertained in this hard to believe comedy about a couple of radical campus newspaper editors.

In the first act, Scott Morency's powerful delivery as Andy contrasts nicely with Richard Bento's Norman, a panting, lovesick loon whose childlike neurotic behavior makes you forget that this guy is a budding stalker. Both characters' desperation mounts through the play's second half, when they must contend with Sophie Rauschmeyer, an aspiring Olympian swimmer, who is about to marry a Marine. Elena Sloop is a wonderful Sophie; just watch the little fireworks display of emotion that bursts across her face after an unexpected kiss. An her southern accent is wonderful, with expressions that will keep you smiling.   What the script lacks is made up by the excellent performances of three exceptional talents.

Scott Morency has been doing musical direction for many years in the Rhode Island area, and last season performed as Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol.  This play had a lot more of a challenge for Scott and he performs the role so well.

Richard Bento, also of Christmas Carol fame (Scrooge), has a knack for neurotic childlike roles... He did a wonderful job in last seasons production of The Unexpected Guest. He performs just as wonderful in this production.  

Elena Sloop plays the southern gal who is about to marry a Marine, however becomes (for reasons not clear) infatuated with Andy's scent---yeah really!! Norman becomes grotesquely fixated on Sophie; Sophie rebuffs him, but becomes obsessed with Andy, even though she hates his politics. All Andy wants is to get the next issue of his magazine out, dodge creditors and keep the landlady at bay. The situation is pure fluff ---- just add watery wisecracks.

A few good lines do cast some stray sparks, but most of Simon's jokes are duds; they have no connection to the play's time or place or characters, and sound like rejects from earlier, better plays.

If City Nights had to do Star Spangled Girl, at least the company is doing it well, and people who don't demand too much from Neil Simon should find this a pleasant season opener. After all, Simon has a large and forgiving audience; run this Star Spangled Girl up a flagpole, and lots of people are bound to salute.

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Don Gillis, Little Rhody Theater

 

City Nights Dinner Theater (January 10 -25, 2003)
27 Exchange Street
Pawtucket, RI 02862
(401) 723-6060