New Zealand theatre is big enough and mature enough to look after itself these days, so WOW! Productions - a company that helped nurse it through its adolescence - has decided to take us on a creative vacation to 1930s America. Not cultural cringe, but nostalgia, seems to have motivated Dunedin playwright Richard Huber to pen a screwball comedy, Glorious, and the result is pleasingly assured.
Glorious follows the basic pattern of the genre: two zany characters as a mismatched couple (she more zany than he) spar their way into love, and talk in voices that sound like sped-up crooning.
Anya Tate-Manning, as socialite Gloria, and Daniel Coppersmith, as writer Jimmy, have mastered the accent and peculiar cadence required; really seeming to delight in lines such as "I was thinkin', I'm gonna get a job - what are they like?"
That one, naturally, comes from Gloria, who disdains the poor - ironically for their alleged laziness. Hence the mismatch with Jimmy, whose few possessions include a bottle of bourbon, a typewriter and a heart that bleeds for the common man. Gloria sets out to make him marry her, just the same, and moves uninvited into his home. From there, she goes to work as a waitress, which leads to an unexpected revelation in the plot.
Coppersmith is suitably and convincingly earnest in his role, gracefully supporting Tate-Manning, who necessarily has the more beguiling character. She puts her big eyes to Betty Boop effect, glorifies Sharon Matthews' elegant costumes, and generally takes to the role of assertive female like a swan to water.
Director Patrick Davies is known for playing high-energy parts as an actor, and has charged this work from the same battery. The players are kept moving and the pace is rapid.
The words "moonlight" and "magnolia" each reoccur a couple of times in the script, calling to mind last year's Fortune production Moonlight & Magnolias. It is almost as if Huber was thinking, "Ha! I can do just as good a take on 1930s America, and they can pay less for the rights to the script, too."
Martyn Roberts' cinematic black-and-white lighting, and Danny Still's apt
music and sound effects, complete the picture of a production that, despite not telling a New Zealand story, certainly puts local talent to the fore.
As it happens, while the original screwball served as an escape from the Great Depression, this pastiche is well timed to provide some light'n'screwy relief from this year's Great Recession.