‘The Pleasure of His Company’ is a buffet of comedy
Anita Loos, acclaimed American screenwriter, playwright and author, once said this about charm: “Without it, America would be grim.” There is nothing grim about the Old Globe’s current production of “The Pleasure of His Company,” and Patrick Page, one of the leads in the comedy, runs a close race with Clark Gable as a character full of charm.
Page plays Biddeford “Pogo” Poole, an absentee father of 15 years to his only daughter, San Francisco debutante Jessica Poole. Her mother, Katharine (Ellen Karas), has remarried noted attorney Jim Dougherty (Jim Abele), who has raised Jessica as his own. Jessica is about to marry rancher Roger Henderson (Matt Biedel) and preparations are in full swing for a swanky wedding.
Jessica hasn’t seen her father since she was a young girl, but feels she knows everything about the international playboy through clippings she’s kept in an album.
Because the family never knows where to reach Poole, they never expect the wedding invitation to reach him. Much to Katharine’s horror, but Jessica’s exuberant joy, Poole shows up and moves into Jim’s historical San Francisco home.
The family affair-themed play was written by Samuel Taylor (screenwriter of the film “Vertigo”) with Cornelia Otis Skinner. The Globe production, directed by Darko Tresnjak, is the first revival of the play since its Broadway debut in 1958. It became a film in 1961 with Fred Astaire and Debbie Reynolds in the leads.
“The Pleasure of His Company” is a cornucopia of delight. Most impressive is the set designed by Alexander Dodge. The curtain opens to reveal a thin curtain resembling an historical picture frame which rises to reveal a beautiful living room and sweeping staircase of the Dougherty’s historic Victorian home. There are many exquisite items in the room – the window with an awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the window’s decor, the room’s wood trimming, the mirrors – all superbly impressive.
The story is a simple one, but this cast builds it into a compelling drama that Taylor has laced with wonderful dialogue and much humor. Neither Jim nor Rodger are happy to meet the infamous Poole. Jim’s tolerance of him trying to woo Katharine is short lived while Roger can’t bear that Jessica is considering postponing the wedding to travel around the world with her father.
Rounding out some of the more comedic roles are Sab Shimomo as Toi, the family’s servant, and Mackenzie Savage as Katharine’s witty father, Ted. Page is perfect as the amusing and conniving Poole. He charms Jessica into thinking they can recapture their lost years together. He reminds Katharine what she once saw in him and he convinces Toi perhaps he would like to travel the world with him as well.
Credit must also go to lighting designer York Kennedy and sound designer Paul Peterson whose work on the stage is very impressive. The sound artfully becomes a character in the play as Jessica and Poole recapture memories about the sounds of the boat horns during the fog on the bay.
There are lessons to learn by all the characters in “The Pleasure of His Company.” And when they’re delivered in a buffet of comedy, it’s a real treat for playgoers.
The play runs through Aug. 10. More information: (619) 23-GLOBE, www.TheOldGlobe.org.
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