Love can be a tricky customer: who do you pledge your allegiance to most strongly? Your country, your ideals, your friends – or the cute brunette who has just moved in next door?
That is the quandary at the centre of the latest production at the Maddermarket Theatre, a revival of Neil Simon’s 1966 play The Star Spangled Girl. Whilst the story in theory centres around two strident politicos hellbent on overthrowing Uncle Sam through their subversive magazine, there is no hand-wringing lecturing here. This isn’t a play that is going to overly tax your brain.
The piece is all froth: fun, almost farcical, comedy that hangs around the comic talents of Christopher Neal as the slightly unhinged writer and tragically-bad romancer Norman. He is smitten with Southern belle Sophie, played by Nina Taylor, who breezes into his apartment one day.
His flatmate and fellow magazine owner Andy (James Ducker) is left to try to douse down his most ardent passions while getting the next issue of the magazine out and keeping their various debtors happy.
Neal is the main meat of the production, with a range of crazed facial expressions and a dextrous physicality that makes the slightly absurd events seem tenable. He gets, and deserves, lots of laughs. Ducker is a consistent and calm force, mostly a straight-man foil to Neal but also showing good timing in delivering his own gags – particularly a running series of fake phone calls.
Taylor, who completes the small cast, is convincing as the put-upon titular girl drawn into increasingly odd scenarios, but could have played up more comic havoc with a slightly exaggerated portrayal. The play is silly, so why not ham it up for maximum effect?
Stash Kirkbride’s direction keeps the piece moving along, only really interrupted by slightly tardy scene changes.
This is funny, frothy, nonsense, and a charming bit of entertainment for a winter’s night.