Pillow Talk

Adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel
Directed by Jeff Seabaugh
Two Rivers Theatre Collective/Fourth Street Theatre
Equity Showcase (closed)
Review by David Mackler

Late night one night, a young man (Mark Finley) is flipping channels and comes across Pillow Talk. He nods off, Doris Day (Mary Jo Todaro) appears, and the movie - well, the movie is Pillow Talk, and he is the star. Whether you are familiar with the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie or not, this version, as adapted by Christopher Sergel, is campy fun.

The movie was a big hit in 1959, and was meant, very nearly, as a straightforward comedy. (The characters are now the archetypes everyone is familiar with -- this is where they were formed.) Time, and information, have taken care of that, however, so Pillow Talk is free to mine laughs from the script that were unintended forty years ago, and undeniable now.

The characters in the play are the same as the movie -- career woman Jan Morrow (Finley) and ladies-man songwriter Brad Allen (Igor Goldin) share a party line, and comedy and romance ensue. The script is nearly the same (if memory serves, only a few scenes were deleted), and this was practically the only weak link. A further trimming would have helped -- there is an obviousness to the plot which undercuts some of the fun. But the direction by Jeff Seabaugh was first-rate, especially where the cinematic basis of the piece was highlighted -- soundtrack music was used over scene changes; a "walking tour" montage of our hero and heroine enjoying New York; employing the movie's split-screen gimmicks of having the two talk on the phone back-to-back and bathtub-to-bathtub.

Several different acting styles each reflected the play's source. There was the manic playing of John Lenartz as Jan's suitor (played in the movie by Tony Randall), the acerbic delivery of Chris Tomaino as Jan's maid Alma (originally Thelma Ritter), and the smooth smarminess of Goldin, who also captured Rock Hudson's woodenness. But effective as they were, it was Finley's Jan, played with only the slightest tongue in his cheek, that stole it. With a charm and ease that were delightfully fake, he also came across as absolutely natural, and perfectly charming.

The costumes (by Mary Tarochione) matched the mood -- silk lavender pajamas and floral slippers for Jan, period cocktail dresses for Brad Allen's various women (very well played by Todaro and Karen Greatti), matronly to moo-moo clothes well carried off by Scott Gilmore's various characters. Jodi Lynn Smith, Peter Herrick, and Stephen Huff were also fine in varied roles. Lighting design by Christian D. Cargill went far toward setting the proper tone; the set (also by Tarochione) was simple, with bright pastel-colored sashes and dots placing the action squarely in dreamland.

The finale was a bizarre fantasia to "What Is This Thing Called Love" that seemed a little forced and out of place, but it was quickly followed by a reprise of the titanically catchy title song. There was no real closure to the story (is our hero stuck in a Pillow Talk Twilight Zone?), but this Pillow Talk delighted in being utterly inconsequential, and in on its own jokey fun.

Box Score:

Writing: 1

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 1998 David Mackler