By Richard Pacheco
“The Best of Everything” at the 2nd Story Theatre is a play based on the Rona Jaffe controversial best selling novel about sexual politics in 1960’s Manhattan. Set in the pre-women’s liberation era, “The Best of Everything”, tells the story of five young and impressionable secretaries who are new to Manhattan and publishing and their adventures to find a nice boy to take them out to dinner, and possibly lasting love while dodging the garter snappers and lotharios at Fabian Publishing. While it was highly provocative and controversial at the time, it seems rather tame and mild today.
The play, adapted by Julie Kramer from the novel and it revives a feeling for the era and its definite oddities and manners and mores. For many, women it was a more limiting time with less options to choose from to live their life. The period as well as evoking nostalgia in the form of fond memories also evokes an era of McCarthyism and rabid ear of communist amidst nostalgia about the Norman Rockwell vision of the American family.
The cast is superb, bright, funny, full of finesse. Kira Hawkridge directs with deft touches throughout, rich in movement and wit as well as touching moments.
Kerri Giorgi is Caroline Bender, an ambitious young woman with a broken heart who finds herself in New York with a desire to be an editor at Fabian Publishing. She is smart, pretty and polished. Devastated by her fiancé running off to marry another, wealthy woman, she finds herself on another path, one in publishing, no more married life stay at home wife. Giorgi is pert and vivacious in the role, exuding not only a strength and persistence, but also a vulnerability that is convincing. Giorgi is a delight in the role.
The bevy of secretaries includes, Mary Agnes Russo, a somewhat gossipy and naïve woman; Brenda Zaleski, a schemer; April Morrision, a small town girl who often says funny things without her knowledge; Amanda Farrow, the only female editor at the publishing house, tough and tenacious; and Gregg Adams, a temp and actress with loads of ambition and not as devil may care as she seems on the surface.
There are also the men who haunt their lives, like Eddie Harris, Caroline’s former fiancé, Mike Rice a handsome and dissipated alcoholic, David Wilder Savage, a dashing womanizer, Mr. Shalamar, the editor in chief both drinker and garter snapper and finally Ronnie Wood, a small town boy who is genuinely sweet. Jennifer Michaels is the gabby, pleasant but somewhat daffy Mary Agnes. She cavorts about with zest and energy, full of gossip and tales. She sincerely wants to be married and out of the secretarial pool and that is her ambition. Michaels is a delight in the role, with a quirky sense of personality that is endearing.
Melanie Stone is April Morrison, the small town girl a bit taken aback by her escapades in NYC and a bit timid in matters of love, but a genuine thirst to know. Stone offers an offhand charm and innocence that is just right for the role. Rae Mancini is the only female editor at Fabian Publishing, a kind of legend who is smart, sassy, tough and unmarried but still holds dreams of wedded life. Mancini is the solid blend of hash and professional and still desirous of married bliss. Valerie Westgate is the actress and temp, Gregg. Gregg appears devil may care, but she has hidden feelings underneath that run deep, very deep. Westgate is vivacious and sassy in the role, a wannabe ingénue with still romantic notions for only the right man. Westgate is fascinating in the role, full of an edgy charm and deep feelings.
Rachel Perry is Brenda, a bit of a schemer and a trifle bit manipulative. Perry is right on the mark with the role, full of enthusiasm and sharp edges when needed. David Sackal is Eddie Harris, Caroline’s former fiancé who still seems to lurk in her life at times. He is full of himself and sees himself as the lead on a romantic novel. He is massively self absorbed. Sackal is steady with his creation of Eddie, with just the right touches of egotism and charm that is imperative for the role.
In the rest of the male roles is David Nando Rodgers. He is adaptable and poised managing to find just the right touches for each of the different characters with passion and skill. Kira Hawkridge’s direction is impeccable, full of nice touches like the movement she guides her cast through at various points which add an almost ballet element to the play. It is a delightful production, even if the play seems a bit too nostalgic of times gone by. It continues until May 28 upstairs at 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market Street
Warren, Rhode Island 02885. Box office: 401 247 4200. http://2ndstorytheatre.com