Sunday, August 15, 2010

FringeNYC: Just In Time - The Judy Holliday Story

I may have been disappointed in the Fringe Festival production of Running that I saw yesterday but the performance of Just In Time - The Judy Holliday Story that I saw today more than made up for it. I loved this show.

Much of the credit for its success must go to Bob Sloan, the writer and director, who created an intricate interwoven tapestry out of a variety of events in Judy’s life, ranging from her high school graduation to her beating out Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Eleanor Parker and Gloria Swanson for the 1951 Academy Award for Best Actress; from her appearance on the television show What’s My Line to her appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee; from her work in standup comedy with Adolph Green and Betty Comden to her playing opposite Katherine Hepburn in Adam’s Rib; and from her relationship with her mother to her relationship with Peter Lawford. And he has done it all with a deft light touch which preserves the basic comedic brilliance of Judy’s life.

But if much of the credit for this show’s success should go to Bob Sloan for having created this vehicle in the first place, an equal amount must go to Marina Squerciati who brings the role of Judy Holliday to life. A bleeding heart kneejerk liberal on matters of world affairs but a distant uninvolved mother when it came to her own son, an intellectlually gifted woman but a ditzy blonde when it suited her, a wannabe writer and director contending a disdain for the acting profession who nonetheless achieved her greatest success as a comedic-actor, Judy incorporated in her persona all the confusing, infuriating, contradictory attributes that define humanity. And Marina Squerciati has done a superb job in bringing all this out.

The other three cast members are all deserving of considerable praise as well. Mary Gutzi plays the role of Helen, Judy’s mother, with humor and charm – and boasts a wonderful singing voice to boot. Catherine LeFrere plays all the other women in the show – no easy task when the list ranges from Katherine Hepburn to Betty Comden and from Dorothy Kilgallen to Gloria Swanson – and she succeeds deliciously. And Adam Harrington plays an even greater number of men - including Adolph Green, Harry Cohn, John Daly, Peter Lawford, Orson Welles and Jimmy Durante - and does so with equal success and considerable aplomb.

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