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Trinity Rep opened its 2011-2012 season this week with the outrageously funny period piece, "His Girl Friday," adapted by John Guare from the 1928 play "The Front Page," by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

The play is set in the press room of a Chicago newspaper during the 1930s, and the chaos surrounding the end of the Great Depression and the beginning of World War II serves as the backdrop for the events of the play.

Protagonist Hildy Johnson (Angela Brazil) is an ex-reporter, revisiting her old office one last time before she moves to Albany with her new fiancee. Walter Burns (Fred Sullivan, Jr.), her former boss and ex-husband, tries to lure her back to the newspaper and his side by tempting her with the news story of a lifetime. The case of Earl Holub (Philipe Bowgen MFA '12), an alleged warmonger and cop killer on death row, may involve political corruption and deceit — a dream come true for any journalist — and Hildy must choose between a killer story and peaceful retirement.

All the action takes place during one night in the press room, but the fast-paced, witty banter between the characters keeps the audience intrigued. In fact, the play is a roller coaster of emotion, teetering on outrageous as it approaches its chaotic climax.

 Sullivan shines as Walter Burns. His dry, sardonic sense of humor never fails to leave the audience in hysterics as he brings the character of the hard-headed editor to life.

Brazil's performance as the energetic Hildy is also impressive. The mixture of attraction and tension between her and Walter plays to good effect in the snappy dialogue.

Secondary characters are equally entertaining. Stephen Thorne's performance as Bruce Baldwin, Hildy's simple-minded insurance salesman fiancee is particularly funny. The contrast between the bland Bruce and Hildy and Walter's energetic duo is delightfully amusing.

Among the more remarkable aspects of the play are the frequent, almost impossibly fast costume changes. Many of the actors play multiple roles, and changes between characters are used to great comedic effect.

Brian McEleney, head of the Brown/Trinity MFA program, was particularly memorable for his hilarious role changes. McEleney played both Bensinger, a neurotic and anxious reporter, and Diamond Louie, a smooth-talking con man. The comedic value of these contrasting roles was further enhanced by the fact that McEleney moved quickly and fluidly between the two.

Often, works as old as "His Girl Friday" dealing with issues like gender equality and political corruption don't age well. But Trinity Rep's production is uproariously entertaining, and also fresh and modern.

"This ‘Girl Friday' examines America's tormented relationship with truth, justice and the media," Director Curt Columbus writes in the program. "The issues speak to our current moment — an out-of-control media that will do anything to get a story, a corrupt political bureaucracy that will do or say anything to keep power, a world situation that unhinges even the calmest of world leaders."

"His Girl Friday" succeeds in creating an intimate atmosphere, sharing inside jokes with the audience that are familiar and self-deprecating at times. The play is entertaining from start to finish.



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