Philip Goes Forth

George Kelly
Mint Theater Company
Mint Theater

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Bernardo Cubría and Natalie Kuhn Credit: Rahav Segev/Photopass
Bernardo Cubría, Cliff Bemis and Christine Toy Johnson Credit: Rahav Segev/Photopass
Christine Toy Johnson and Rachel Moulton Credit: Rahav Segev/Photopass

The latest online presentation from New York’s Mint Theater Company was recorded at a live performance in 2014.

Playwright George Kelly was prolific a century ago and regarded so highly that he won a Pulitzer Prize and drew comparisons to both Chekhov and Molière. Philip Goes Forth is the lightest of comedies, written and set in 1931 as America attempted to recover from the Depression. However, that event largely passes by the player’s characters, especially the affluent group who meet in the comfortable living room of Christine Toy Johnson’s Mrs Randolph.

The ladies are what can only be described as archetypal representatives of the idle rich, while the protagonist and his father, their hostess’s nephew and brother, toil away making money. This is where the dramatic tension comes in, since Mr Eldridge played by Cliff Bemis expects the titular Philip to be a chip off the old block. However, Bernardo Cubría’s character has other ideas, yearning to head for New York and see his name in lights as an acclaimed Broadway playwright.

A verbal battle that both will regret inevitably ensues, heightened as handsome Philip is egged on by Natalie Kuhn in the role of Cynthia, the beautiful neighbour whom he idolises.

Act Two moves us on six months and takes the action to the heart of New York City and a bohemian rooming house run by wise Mrs Ferris, portrayed by Jennifer Harmon. 25 years before, she had been the leading actress in the city, lionised by all and sundry, which makes the lady perfectly placed to judge the artistic ambitions and talents of her variegated household, a group led by Rachel Moulton playing the uber-artistic Miss Krail, which might collectively be the most eccentric and bohemian bunch seen on a stage since Puccini wrote La Bohème.

By the third act of a drama that runs to 110 minutes, the conclusion is almost inevitable, but in getting there we enjoy by far the most successful element of the evening as pathos intervenes to firm up what had otherwise been the frothiest of comedies, director Jerry Ruiz seemingly having asked his actors to overplay the humour wherever possible.

Strangely, there are surprisingly few plays that focus on the trials and tribulations of a young man (or woman for that matter) desirous of becoming a playwright. As such, George Kelly offers his audience some valuable insights into the creative mind and what it takes to succeed in a very competitive field, primarily through the mouthpiece of Mrs Ferris.

Philip Goes Forth is probably not the finest example of this writer’s work but entertains and really hits its stride in that last act.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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