09 August 2012

Love Goes to Press

Angela Pierce and Heidi Armbruster in Love Goes to Press. Photo: Richard Termine.

Love Goes to Press, a play written by war correspondents Martha Gelhorn and Virginia Cowles, was first performed in London in 1946. Last month I got a chance to see a new production at the Mint Theater Company, which was loads of fun.

At a press camp in Italy in 1944, the arrival of two female correspondents disrupts the normal order of things. A vow is made that the women will receive no special treatment but the men don't know who they're up against. These two “little ladies” may sometimes use their feminine wiles to scoop their male colleagues but they are serious journalists. Pert and sassy Jane Mason of the New York Bulletin has plans to hitch a ride with a Red Cross ambulance to a nearby mountain where a group of American soldiers are cut off by the Germans while the glamorous Annabelle Jones of the San Francisco World (wearing red heels no less) has talked a pilot into sneaking her into Poland, which is off limits to the press. These two old friends’ plans are quickly derailed though by love when Jane catches the eye of the PR officer, Major Philip Brooke-Jervaux, a staid Englishman who wants nothing more than to be back home on his farm while Annabelle is surprised to discover her ex-husband, Joe Rogers, who is engaged to a flighty English actress who soon shows up to perform for the troops. What follows is a good old-fashioned comedy filled with miscommunication, choices made between love and careers, and the surprising importance of Burma.

The authors based the female characters on themselves but always insisted that the male characters were entirely fictitious. I think the ladies did protest too much. The character of the boastful Rogers is an obvious send-up of Gelhorn’s ex-husband, Ernest Hemingway, who she notoriously competed with over assignments. In the play, we learn that Joe has repeatedly stolen stories from Annabelle under the guise of “protecting her.” He is also fond of making grand sweeping statements before departing to write and we suspect, drink.

Angela Pierce and Bradford Cover. Photo: Richard Termine.

Although it was fun to watch Annabelle battle it out with her ex, more entertaining was seeing Jane break through the Major’s English reserve. Finally admitting their mutual attraction during a bombing, they smile as plaster from the ceiling falls on their heads, oblivious to their surroundings. The two are utter opposites and some of the more comical moments in the play are Jane's reactions to the Major's plans for their life together on his horribly dull-sounding farm.

Fast talking and displaying knowing looks to the audience, Angela Pierce’s Jane was spot on as was Bradford Cover’s Major with his plumy tones and straight as a board posture. Heidi Armbruster was charming and lovely as Annabelle while Rob Breckenridge as Rogers was mildly disappointing although I think it was largely due to a part that didn’t give him much to work with. Margot White as Rogers’ fiancĂ©e, Daphne Rutherford, was fine at first but just got shriller as she went on. Some of the strongest performances of the evening were by the supporting cast particularly Curzon Dobell and Jay Patterson as two American correspondents who could have walked straight out of a 1940s movie. 

The set design was excellent with just the right amount of shabbiness and requisite typewriters. And then there were the costumes. I left the theatre thinking up ways to get my hands on an Army-issued sweater and how I wanted to wear that shade of green this fall. With red lipstick and heels.

The Mint Theatre performs “forgotten” plays and their next production is Mary Broome by Allan Monkhouse. For more information, visit their website here.

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