Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Philip Goes Forth

George Kelly's Philip Goes Forth at the Mint is an uneven production of an uneven play that nevertheless entertains and satisfies. Written in 1931, Philip Goes Forth treads familiar ground with its story of a young man, the titular Philip, who chooses to become a playwright rather than go into his father's business, much to his father's dismay and anger. Philip ends up at a boardinghouse with the customary artists and eccentrics, each of whom represents a way of going for your dream: living it, faking it, failing at it, letting it go. Philip becomes friends with them, gets a day job, and works on his plays at night.

Rachel Moulton
Photo: Rahav Segev
In some ways, Philip Goes Forth seems to be in the tradition of Holiday (1928), the movie version of  Stage Door (1936), and You Can't Take It With You (1936), but it has a pragmatic underpinning that those lack. It is a tribute to working toward one's dreams, but only as long as one has the drive and the talent to achieve them.  Where Holiday has the famous, "If he wants to come back and sell peanuts, Lord how I'll believe in those peanuts," Philip Goes Forth would have, "If he wants to come back and sell peanuts, we'll have to see if he's any good at selecting the best peanuts, setting up a stand, and making it work."
Or, as the landlady says,
You know, there are millions of people all over the world that are spoiling their lives regretting that they didn't do something, or take up something, or keep on with something; when it's the blessing of God that the majority of them did just what they did; for they'd have only found out what you are finding out—that liking a thing, or talking a lot about it, is not an ability to do it.

Unfortunately, director Jerry Ruiz allows his cast to inhabit different realities, including comic comedy, character comedy, and naturalistic drama. Some seem genuinely to be in the 1930s, some seem to be in the "1930s," and one would be more comfortable in 2013. For example, Carole Healey is delightful as Philip's potential mother-in-law; she's in the comic comedy in the "1930s." Rachel Moulton turns the potentially one-dimensional character of a seemingly ditzy poet into a poignant and real human being; she's in the character comedy in the 1930s. And Kathryn Kates, a late addition to the cast, fascinates as the landlady; she's in the naturalistic drama in the 21st century. Together, they, and some of the other cast members, are good enough to overcome being in different plays.

The sets by Steven C. Kemp and props by Joshua Yocum are wonderful. I don't know whether the paintings in the second act count as props or scenery, but either way, they are exactly what they should be, and fun to boot. I would gladly live in that boarding house. The costumes, by Carisa Kelly, are both attractive and effectively character-defining.

And, as always, thanks to the Mint for bringing these plays back to life and giving them productions that are always at least quite good and often wonderful.

(press ticket; fifth row on the aisle)

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