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Gurney Expands Successful Formula In ‘The Old Boy’

Fri., Feb. 9, 1996

The title of “The Old Boy,” A.R. Gurney’s 1991 play opening tonight at Interplayers, refers to the Old Boy Network - the East Coast prep school network of power and privilege. However, “The Old Boy” also has another meaning.

As in almost all of Gurney’s plays, “the men are almost always boys who have not grown up, and do not really have to,” as Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote in his 1991 review. With their money, clubs, and hereditary law firms, they think they can sail through life.

Which, of course, they can’t. Nobody gets off that easy, as we have seen in previous Spokane productions of such excellent Gurney plays as “Love Letters,” “The Cocktail Hour,” “Another Antigone,” “What I Did Last Summer” and “Richard Cory.”

“A typical Gurney protagonist reaches middle age to discover that he has alienated his children, married the wrong woman and followed a pointless career,” writes Rich.

In “The Old Boy,” this formula remains intact. The plot centers around Sam, a middle-aged politician-diplomat who returns to his old prep school to give a fund-raising speech. His political career may be rising but his second marriage is faltering and his life amounts to little more than a collection of government jobs acquired “mostly by luck and pull.”

As is typical of Gurney, the rest of the play revolves around the character’s emotionally repressed attempt to face up to the hollowness of his life.

However, in this play Gurney takes this formula an important step farther, which is one reason Time magazine chose it as one of the best plays of 1991, and why Rich called “The Old Boy” a welcome breakthrough.

“Mr. Gurney has expanded his canvas, if not his social milieu, in this play,” wrote Rich. “He asks the audience to care less about aging old boys, and more about those less-privileged souls who are denied admission to the fraternity.”

Foremost among those less-privileged souls is Perry, an old schoolmate of Sam’s (and a homosexual), and Alison, a woman who was once in love with Sam but who married Perry instead. (Back in those days, Perry was in the closet and desperate to conform.)

The crux of the play lies in confrontational scenes between Sam and Perry, and Sam and Alison. Several scenes are played in flashback.

In this production, Sam is played by Doug Sadler, who was outstanding in two previous Interplayers shows, “I Hate Hamlet,” and “Prelude to a Kiss.” Scot Charles Anderson plays Perry and Trace Turville plays Alison. The rest of the cast consists of Yaakov Sullivan, David Heath and Linda Montalvo. The director is Interplayers associate director Michael Weaver.

“The Old Boy” opens tonight and continues through March 2. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances are at 7:30 p.m.; and 2 p.m. matinees will be held on Saturday and Feb. 14 and 17.

Reservations are available by calling 455-PLAY. Interplayers is Spokane’s resident professional theater, located at 174 S. Howard in downtown Spokane.

“Love Letters”

Speaking of A.R. Gurney, here’s a chance to see Gurney’s undisputed most popular crowd-pleaser, with two Spokane theater legends in the title roles.

Dorothy Darby Smith is the grand dame of Spokane theater and Homer Mason is the male equivalent of that term. Both will perform “Love Letters” in a marvelous Valentine’s Day dinner theater event at the Davenport Hotel.

This play is a perfect vehicle for these actors. It consists of two people sitting side by side on a stage, reading a lifetime’s worth of letters to each other - love letters, of course. John Bouchard is the director of this Cast Adrift Players Production. If this play doesn’t get you right in the heart and the tear ducts, you must be made of stone.

The event itself is also something special. The evening is in honor of Katherine Gellhorn, Spokane’s foremost patron of the arts. Tickets are $38, available by calling 455-8888, or all G&B; Select-a-Seat outlets.

Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7:30 p.m.

“Music of the Night”

Here’s another romantic event coming up: “Music of the Night,” a special evening of music and theater on Saturday and Sunday at North Idaho College’s Boswell Auditorium in Coeur d’Alene.

It will feature music from “Phantom of the Opera,” “Showboat,” “The King and I” and “Les Miserables,” among other shows. The singers will be Katherine Damiano, Robert Platte, Tom Stratton, John Cooper and Cheryl-Ann Rossi.

An added attraction will be The Fabulous Shadows, who made a name for themselves in the ‘60s by playing dances at Coeur d’Alene City Park.

The shows are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets are $18 and $15, with a $3 discount, available by phoning (800) 423-2849, or locally in North Idaho, 769-7780. Proceeds will benefit the North Idaho College Foundation.

“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

Sandpoint’s newest performing space, The Performing Arts and Humanities of Sandpoint, 506 Oak, will make its debut with the classic children’s musical, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

The show opens tonight at 7, and continues Saturday and Feb 16. and 17 at 7 p.m., with matinees on Sunday and Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6, $4 for students and seniors, and $3 for children 12 and under. Tickets are available at the door, and at Java Adagio next to the Panida Theatre.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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