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The Actors Company Theatre Revives "Happy Birthday" by Anita Loos at the Beckett Theatre
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The Actors Company Theatre Revives "Happy Birthday" by Anita Loos at the Beckett Theatre

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TACT/The Actors Company Theatre
(TACT Website)

Presents:
Happy Birthday

By Anita Loos
Directed by Scott Alan Evans

At the
Beckett Theatre
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street
NY, NY
212.279.4200

With:
Mary Bacon, Tom Berklund, Hanna Cheek,
Nora Chester, Todd Gearhart, Darrie Lawrence,
Victoria Mack, Joseph Masi, Anderson Matthews,
Ron McClary, James Prendergast, Lesley Shires,
Joe Tippett, Margot White, Karen Ziemba

Scenic Design: Brett J. Banakis
Costume Design: Campbell Baird
Wig & Hair Design: Tommy Kurzman
Lighting Design: Paul Hackenmueller
Sound Design & Original Music: Bart Fasbender
Production Stage Manager: Jeff Meyers
Asst. Stage Manager: Andrew Slater
Casting: Kelley Gillespie
Dramaturge: Matt Herzfeld
TACT General Manager: Cathy Bencivenga
Press & Publicity: Richard Hillman, PR
Props by Lauren Madden
Choreography by Valerie Wright
Music Programing by Joe Trapanese
Musical Direction & Original Music by James Cunningham
Marketing: The Pekoe Group


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 23, 2013 Matinee


It’s 1946, and the Jersey Mecca Cocktail Bar, run by a very seasoned Karen Ziemba as Gail Hosmer, is filling with regulars, as TACT’s production of Anita Loos’ Happy Birthday opens at the Beckett. This, like most TACT productions, is a rare play that originally starred Helen Hayes in a 546 performance, Tony-winning tour de force. Mary Bacon is featured here as Addie Bemis, in the Hayes role, as an inhibited ingénue, a stay-at-home librarian, who’s secretly infatuated with a banker, Paul Bishop (Todd Gearhart), who opened her personal account, as she yearns for independence. Living with her abusive, drunk father, Anderson Matthews as Homer Bemis, is a living hell, and Addie is working on her escape. Bishop, however, is engaged to Maude Carson (Victoria Mack), who wants a big, expensive Hollywood mansion, which will give her eventual spousal equity, if she bolts with her exotic hair salon owner lover, Mr. Nanino (Joseph Masi).

Once Addie meets two ladies of a certain age, drinking buddies, Tot and Emma (Darrie Lawrence and Nora Chester), she has her first cocktail, a Pink Lady, then gin, liqueurs, scotch, champagne, and next she’s at the bar’s mic, belting out Rodgers and Hammerstein’s (who produced the 1946 play and composed this song) “I Haven’t Got a Worry in the World”. Other entertainment at the Jersey Mecca in Newark includes a tango, danced by Tom Berklund and Lesley Shires as Gail’s son Don and his girlfriend, June, and some fancy, creative lighting and props that bring liquor bottles alive and illuminated. In fact, during Addie’s deepest moments of inebriation, the lighting and stage effects shift to surreal and serendipitous, a brilliant technical design. Another stage design is the imaginary stretching of a pink tablecloth to cover half the audience in its awning, so we can join Addie and Paul, as they hide in transparent secrecy.

The cast of fifteen also includes Myrtle (Margot White), as a lonely birthday girl, who gets an instant bubbly party, thanks to Addie’s bank account, a financially challenged couple, Gabe Darcy and Bella Lane (Joe Tippett and Hanna Cheek), also blessed by Addie’s alcohol-assisted generosity, and staff at the Cocktail Bar, Ron McClary as Herman, James Prendergast as Dad Malone, Matthews doubling as the judge, and Masi doubling as a policeman. This show was quite a lovely afternoon surprise, with such effervescence, such pizzazz, such optimism. Campbell Baird’s costumes are retro 1940’s skirts, suits, and hats, and Paul Hackenmueller’s lighting enhances the magic and mood. Brett Banakis’ scenery brings us right into this cozy Newark venue, a place where it seems “Through these portals pass the nicest people in Newark”, the painted quote above the stage’s well-stocked bar. Scott Alan Evans has directed for imaginative detail in setting and dramatization, with an emphasis on naturalness of repartee, of wit, of arrivals and exits, and of mood in a convivial, communal evening of cocktails. Kudos to TACT.



Mary Bacon and Karen Ziemba
in Anita Loos' "Happy Birthday"
Courtesy of Hunter Canning



Todd Gearhart and Mary Bacon
in Anita Loos' "Happy Birthday"
Courtesy of Hunter Canning



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net