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BWW Review: Peccadillo Revisits George Kelly's 1924 Smash, THE SHOW-OFF

For over twenty years, artistic director Dan Wackerman's Peccadillo Theater Company has specialized in mounting handsome productions of infrequently revived Broadway fare of notable pedigree, such as Elmer Rice's COUNSELLOR AT LAW, Dorothy Parker and Arnaud d'Usseau's LADIES OF THE CORRIDOR and, most notably, a sparkling, uproarious revival of John Murray & Allen Boretz's classic comedy, ROOM SERVICE.

The Show-Off
Annette O'Toole and Ian Gould
(Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Frequently, their fine work leaves audiences wondering why such titles aren't mounted more often. Sadly, that's not the case with their newest offering, George Kelly's 1924 comedy/drama, The Show-Off.

Of course, a theatre company can't be blamed for wanting to tackle a play that racked up 571 performances in its original run (an incredible number for its time) and has returned to Broadway in six revivals, most recently in 1992.

But perhaps Kelly's great success has grown too old for contemporary audiences to be easily familiar with its comedic targets. There undoubtedly was a time when the playwright's jabs at his hometown of Philadelphia must have inspired howls from Gotham playgoers, as did the ethnic slurs which Peccadillo retains.

Most likely intended as a satire of the emerging early 20th Century figure of the brash American fast-talker who fakes his way to success, the play is set in the North Philadelphia living room of the Fisher family; a fine rendering of working class comfort by designer Harry Feiner.

The Show-Off
Annette O'Toole and Elise Hudson
(Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

The family matriarch (Annette O'Toole) is thoroughly dismayed that her daughter Amy (Emma Orelove) has a narcissistic West Philadelphia beau, Aubrey Piper (Ian Gould) who makes a production of himself with every visit, exaggerating about his business success, espousing his dedication to socialism and painfully overplaying good fellowship for Mr. Fisher (Douglas Rees) and Amy's inventor bother, Joe (Tirosh Schneider).

Mrs. Fisher prefers the mild-mannered stability offered by her daughter Clara's (Elise Hudson) husband Frank Hyland (Aaron Gaines). The rather thin plot is stretched to the limit, leading to a possible redemption for the rascal.

The period flavor presented by director Wackerman's talented ensemble helps coax the material along, but The Show-Off comes off more as a historic curiosity than a worthy obscurity.

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