Sunday, January 6, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Pitch Blond (Next Stage)

Laura Anne Harris
(photo credit: Jacklyn Atlas)
Blond Not Dumb
by Shannon Christy

Pitch Blond is an informed attempt to bring back Judy Holliday. It is a 30-minute show that uses audio clips from the 1950’s to send the audience back to a different time when a person’s mere association with communism could ruin their career. Unfortunately it feels like this historical re-enactment is destined for either the  Epcot Centre or the Smithsonian Institution’s section on the Cold War instead of an innovative creation for the stage.

This is not meant to diminish the performance of Laura Anne Harris who stars as Miss Holliday and created the show. Miss Harris is compelling in her portrayal of the famous actress and succeeds in showing how effective Miss Holliday was at so intelligently being stupid. She does this by using various sound clips from popular television shows of the time and audio clips from the Senate subcommittee regarding Holliday’s supposed involvement with communism; including the one scene where Holliday brilliantly lambasts what she hates about communism while overtly comparing those same traits to the very subcommittee she is testifying in front of. All under the guise of a dumb blond.

The play’s weakness comes from the fact that you feel that Harris is acting. This is partly because the stage is set in the The Factory Theatre’s bar room and there is not much space between the set (the bar) and the chairs. It is an extremely intimate setting and requires a real tour de force from the actress to make it work. Miss Harris attempts to make use of this forced intimacy by incorporating the audience back into the play; asking them to share a drink, to find out where she is and to wonder what she is doing there. She nearly succeeds but the show does not have the depth to pull it off and in the end it feels more like a surprisingly well-done school piece.  

If you are interested in taking a look back at some darker periods in the vaunted freedom of expression for the United States then you should check out this play. If you are interested in watching some compelling drama or comedy go elsewhere. 

Pitch Blond is at Next Stage

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