Review: ‘The Philadelphia Story’ by Sterling Playmakers

By Pamela O’Reilly

The weather in Northern Virginia is miserable again; thank goodness for the Sterling Playmakers’ rendition of The Philadelphia Story, Philip Barry’s humorous look at the glamorous life of one prominent Philadelphia family.

The cast of Sterling Playmakers' production of 'The Philadelphia Story.' Photo by Alan Price.
The cast of Sterling Playmakers’ production of ‘The Philadelphia Story.’ Photo by Alan Price.

Tracy Lord, brilliantly played by Alia Robinson, is getting married to solid, safe (if somewhat unimaginative) George Kittridge (a marvelously restrained Mike Brennan), a self-made businessman who pulled himself up from the lower-class ranks. To hush up a scandalous story about Seth Lord (Dennis McCafferty), the family patriarch, Tracy’s brother Sandy (Michael Carter) arranges for two reporters (Brian Tepe as Mike Connor and Elizabeth Deker as the sassy photographer Liz Imbrie) to cover the wedding. Add to the mix Tracy’s charismatic ex-husband, C. K. Dexter Haven (Chris Hrozencik), who keeps appearing at the worst possible moments, her precocious younger sister Dinah (the hysterical Leecy Silk), and the raucous Uncle Willy (played to perfection by Dino Coppa) and you have the ideal recipe for chaos.

This is truly an ensemble piece, with each of the characters carrying their own weight in the story while revolving around the enigmatic Tracy. Alia Robinson is one of the highlights of this play. Her portrayal of Tracy Lord perfectly captures the character’s restraint, elegance, and high ideals. We see her change during the course of the story, as she absorbs the criticisms of those around her; she comes to understand that she has “everything it takes to make a lovely woman except the one essential: an understanding heart.” Through her interactions with Mike Connor, Dexter, her father and her mother (played with grace and quiet dignity by Beth Bollerer), she learns about her own human frailties and becomes a better person for them.

There are two other outstanding performances in this piece: Leecy Silk’s Dinah and Elizabeth Deker’s Liz Imbrie. Silk delivers her lines seamlessly and her sense of timing is exceptional. Many will recall Virginia Weidler’s performance of “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady” from the 1940 film, and Silk recreates this scene (one of my favorites) brilliantly. She’s a breath of fresh air in the show and provides the perfect over-the-top contrast to Tracy’s restrained elegance. Deker’s Imbrie, though somewhat of a minor character, is the perfect mix of smart and sarcastic, and also has excellent comedic timing.

Although there are a few standouts, the entire cast works together beautifully under John Geddie’s direction; the chemistry between the characters is spot-on. The sets (designed by Eric Fisher) added to the overall feel of wealth and sophistication, and the crew does a great job switching between scenes. The blocking is also done very well—the movements of all the characters are perfectly natural and reinforce their relationships to each other.

You feel and understand Tracy’s connection to all the men in the play: George, the safe choice, so very anti-Dexter, versus the mysterious Mike Connor, who surprises her by being more than just a jaded reporter. Her relationship with Dexter, around which so much of the story revolves, is complicated: she wants to dislike him so much, but she just can’t. Chris Hrozencik’s portrayal of the affable Haven is the perfect balance of levity and sincere concern for Tracy’s happiness. You can’t help but root for him.

So much of this play is about relationships, and discovering the truth about people—that the book is more than just the cover and that human weaknesses can make a person more beautiful and more interesting. Here, the message is delivered with elegance and wit. This production of The Philadelphia Story is well done and just plain fun. It’s the perfect date night, girls’ night out, night on the town event. Just go see it. You won’t be sorry.

Running Time: Three hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

The Philadelphia Story, presented by Sterling Playmakers, plays through March 10, 2019, at Seneca Ridge Middle School, 98 Seneca Ridge Drive, Sterling, VA. For tickets, go online.