"Poor old Broadway Francis - her husband just produced an allegory," says Francis Black, anticipating a poverty-stricken old age if the play closes on opening night for want of an audience that appreciates allegory.
Anyway you look at it, producing an allegory has to be risky. But then Walk-Ons took a risk too, producing a 1948 comedy. So we have a risky play about producing a risky play playing at the Center Stage Theatre.
"Light Up the Sky" is worth the risk.Even though the crowd was sparse on opening night, and Moss Hart's comedy is definitely a period piece, the dialogue is very well-written. Witty.
Even if no one comes to see it except people who like '40s-style, mannered, drawing-room comedy - the audience will grow.
"Light Up the Sky" is the story of an overly dramatic director named Carleton Fitzgerald (played by David Spencer), Irene Livingston the Star (played by Gale K. Sears), and the play's backer, Sidney Black (played by Jared Davis). Black is a man with much money who would trade it all for culture.
The three main characters go through the first act fawning and posturing. They think the play is going to be a success. They think it's the most sophisticated, beautiful drama they've ever seen. They adore the author (played by darkly handsome Geoffrey Bennett). The entire first act - despite an abundance of opening-night slips of the tongue on Thursday - is wickedly funny.
During the second act, when they think the play is going to flop, the characters reveal their darker side. We in the audience have realized all along how insincere they are - but the young playwright takes their behavior as a blow to the heart.
The second act is less funny. Perhaps audiences of forty years ago could be more caught up in the plot: Will the play really fold? And, more importantly, will the young playwright stay with his crass companions and rewrite the story -or will he refuse to work with scoundrels and turn his back on Broadway forever?
The last act gets funnier. The play wraps up in a neat 1940s finish.
By coincidence, Moss Hart himself rewrote "Light Up the Sky" on the road. It was to have been drama with comic relief. The audiences weren't responding. He turned it into a farce, and the farcical parts of the play are what have kept it alive for today's audiences.
One of the best performances in the Walk-Ons production is given by Jean Jenkins. She plays Stella, who's the gin-playing, tough-talking mother of the star. She is delightful, especially when she speaks to her son-in-law.
Oh, and his is another charming cameo. Tyler Rayburn is nice but nerdy - as portrayed by Roland Held.
Francis Black is also a rich character. Carolynne Record gives her down-to-earth humor just the right touch.
The set and costumes (especially the peignoir sets) are also delightful. The rich and colorful decor does a lot to alleviate the monotony of watching three acts in the same setting.
Spencer Ashby is Owen Turner. Director Ray Jones has Ashby interpret the role of a veteran author very quietly. While Ashby's character is a good contrast to the other actors who spit their lines loud and fast, you occasionally want to hear less Utah in his voice and more Eastern intensity.
Hart is said to have based his characters on Billy Rose, Gertrude Lawrence, Guthrie McClintic and Eleanor Holm. When the show came to Broadway, the New York Times called it "a loud, broad, tempestuous comedy that is acted at top speed by a wonderful cast."
"Light Up the Sky" made a debut on the West Coast in 1949, starring Jean Parker and Gregory Peck.
Gregory Peck. That's it. If you like those urbane Gregory Peck comedies you'll like "Light Up the Sky."