I’m a dyed in the wool screwball comedy fan…and I adore Cary Grant so I couldn’t wait to see the Wellesley Summer Theatre’s production of HOLIDAY (playing through Feb. 3rd). There are two famous films of the Philip Barry play, both delightful but Grant and Katharine Hepburn tear up the 1938 version.
The good news is that director Nora Hussey has Angela Bilkic in the madcap role of the cheeky sister who doesn’t give a fig for her family’s wealthy lifestyle. Bilkic is sensational. She’s sassy. She’s sarcastic. She cracks wise. In short, it’s she, not her glam sister (Marge Dunn), who is the perfect match for her sister’s unconventional beau (Lewis Wheeler).
The peculiar thing is that, aside from Bilkic, Hussey doesn’t have the actors play up the comedy. HOLIDAY becomes weighty social commentary. The play still works but now it’s a cautionary tale: The drunken son (a memorable Will Keary) of a ruthless tycoon (a stern John Davin) wastes his life inside a bottle while his sisters wait for father’s permission to be happy.
The focus shifts from the triumph of a free spirit to the disintegration of a family: One daughter following in her father’s shallow footsteps, the other fleeing and the son heading to an early grave. Same script: Add laughter and you get a happy ending, with the spunky sister escaping right out from under her stunned father’s nose, leaving her brother with some hope of doing the same.
Either style, HOLIDAY gets in lovely leftist jabs at folks like her money driven cousin (a seething David Costa) or for that matter, anyone who piles up money, “aiming to live on the income of his income.”