By: Sandi Durell
What a treat to see the Mint Theater’s revival of “Philip Goes Forth.” It hasn’t been produced since 1931 when George Kelly’s humorous play ran at Broadway’s Biltmore Theater. But the hopes and dreams that the Big City has to offer haven’t changed. And, with the difficulty I sometimes have understanding Irish brogues (frequent revivals of forgotten plays at the Mint), it was a double treat to easily understand this English speaking production.
Young Philip Eldridge (Bernardo Cubria) lives in Philadelphia with a hard-nosed businessman for a father (Cliff Bemis) who can’t fathom the idea of his son not going into the family business but instead leaving, without his consent, for the wilds of New York City to become . . . a playwright! And, becoming a playwright isn’t really Philip’s own idea or desire but that of his college roommate Tippy Shronk (Teddy Berman)! Talk about having a dream, especially if it’s not even your own! Although he hasn’t written anything, he’s intent on going to New York because that’s where the drama is.
So off dear Philip goes to live the life of a Bohemian in a boarding house run by an ex-actress Mrs. Ferris (Kathryn Kates). The only person who really stands by him is his Aunt Marion Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) who has been a surrogate mother since his real mother passed on. Although she really doesn’t understand his need to leave, she provides warmth and positive inspiration, as does the young lady with whom he’s smitten, sweet, obedient Cynthia (Natalie Kuhn).
In the mix is Cynthia’s mother Mrs. Oliver (Carole Healey) whose larger-than-life gossipy snoop personality is a constant source of humor throughout the three acts. She does have words of wisdom – “Philip is literary looking!” After all . . .”if one thinks they can write a play, it’s proof he can do it.”
The characters in the rooming house, aside from Philip, Tippy and Mrs. Ferris are a range of dramatic types – Haines (Brian Keith MacDonald) plays classical piano but hasn’t achieved much in the 10 years he’s lived there. Then there’s ditzy Miss Krail (Rachel Moulton), a poet filled with wisdom, a true Bohemian.
To earn money, Philip takes a job in a novelty company and appears to do very well in business, which prompts Mrs. Ferris to tell him the truth – – he just doesn’t have “it” as a writer. Philip counters with the fact that he’s written one play about life “it doesn’t go anywhere, it just keeps on going. It’s got rhythm.” In the meantime, tragedy strikes when Haines commits suicide, prompting Tippy to remark that there’s a play in all this!
This event precipitates changes in family relationships, in Philip’s love life and his eventual decision to return home.
Cubria is charming in his youthful eagerness, while I found Ms. Johnson a bit too stiff and rigid. Bergman comes off as the know it all – a trouble-maker. Cliff Bemis as Mr. Eldridge is perfect as the brash, pragmatic father whose son, as it turns out, hasn’t fallen far from the tree. They are deftly directed by Jerry Ruiz.
Adding to this talented cast is Jennifer McVey who plays the maid Edna & Hazel.
The scenic design by Steven C. Kemp moves from all white Deco drawing room to busy colorful Bohemian Greenwich Village boarding house. I did have a problem with the costumes by Carisa Kelly, as they didn’t appear to capture the authenticity of the era (no shoulder pads, cloche hats nor longer skirts for the ladies nor double breasted suits/jackets with padded shoulders for the men).
Lighting by Christian DeAngelis and sound by Toby Algya.
**Photos: Rahav Segev
Philip Goes Forth continues through October 27th. www.minttheater.org
866-811-4111, 311 West 43rd St. (3rd Fl.), NYC