I went to Bryn Mawr, where Katharine Hepburn went. Very late in my day there, Katharine Hepburn came and gave a talk, very nervously, as a scholarship was given in her name, and, I would imagine as a (loving) contingency, she had to address those of us who were interested in the the-ah-terrr. I took her cup of tea from her anxious hand, and she thanked me with as full a heart as a great actress should show when she was someplace she would really rather not be. "I suppose I'm supposed to tell you how Bryn Mawr helped me in the thee-ah-terrrrrr," she wavered. "But I cahnnn't." I of course loved her as much or more for that than anything else, and it has usually been incredibly easy for me to love her, and the thee-ah-terrr since. But alas, not for the last few years, when there has been little to lift my spirits on Broadway, besides revivals of Bob Fosse, and those not quite as wondrous as they should be.
But last night I went very off Broadway to the Union Square Theatre and saw the tongue-in-cheek, lickety-split rendering of
39 STEPS, the revved-up re-do of the Alfred Hitchcock classic. With a cast of 4 that could much more easily be dozens, it lifts the curtain and the spirits on an evening of merriment and revelry, that moves as fast as it is witty. Starring Arnie Burton, Billy Carter, Robert Petkoff and Brittany Vicars, that last particularly impressive because you don't know until the curtain call how prettily she smiles, the performance is so intense. Everyone else is just as riveted and riveting, but one of them has a mustache, which makes it easier to look serious.
The soul, as much as the heart is lifted by an experience like this, especially since the night before one had dropped a heavy wad of cash uptown on SKYLIGHT, starring the multi-fingered Bill Nighy, so admired and admirable in many British films, who, alas, never stopped waving his hands around, as though they were demonic dancers in an overwrought musical about Hell. More entrancing was Carey Mulligan, who, as a critic once said about T.S. Eliot or someone equally worthy, "does not disappoint." This, in spite of how pretty she is, and how often we have seen her in everything these past few years, frequently in things like The Great Gatsby which DO disappoint. She is more than outstanding, though the play has not much of a spine and seemed to me, and to bright friends coincidentally in the audience, confused as to its purpose and extraneous in one of its very few characters, unless something was about to occur afterwards in the way of sort-of-incest. A truly wasted pile of cash and a dangerous setting in the event of fire, there being not an easy exit unless you broke down a wall.
All in all, better go downtown and see 39 STEPS.