Last night I went to the Maddermarket Theatre to see The Star-Spangled Girl by Neil Simon. It was, in short, a supremely entertaining show.
With a cast comprised of only three actors, the show is set entirely within the San Francisco apartment of Andy (James Ducker) and Norman (Christopher Neal), two young men publishing Fallout, a magazine protesting against, well, everything. All is going well (aside from the threat of bodily harm from angry investors, a daredevil landlady and the challenges of publishing a magazine with one writer pretending to be 14 different authors) until the arrival in the apartment next door of Sophie (Nina Taylor), a former Olympic swimmer and all-American girl.
Sophie’s friendly attitude, positivity and, umm, smell, captivate Norman, and from then on his time is solely devoted to wooing her – despite her forceful and enthusiastic rebuttals.
The show romps along through a number of failed attempts at romance, with a great deal of mirth to be had at a wonderfully physical performance by Neal, throwing himself about the stage with abandon, as well as possessing a number of truly deranged, and very funny, facial expressions.
It would be easy to describe Ducker’s performance, and the role of Andy throughout, to be that of the straight foil for his more erratic flatmate, but this would woefully undersell not only an excellent sense of comic timing – as evidenced through a series of adventures answering the phone – but also a beautifully versatile facial performance, moving from amusement to shock to sheer bewilderment at what is going on around him.
Completing the trio, Taylor’s performance of Sophie is exactly the right mix of small town wholesomeness and steely determination in the face of some highly misguided attempts at romance – including an off-stage impromptu ear piercing, and a duck.
While the show has a short interval in the middle, it romps along at a fantastic pace, a credit to the energy of the cast and smooth direction that seemed to allow just the right level of play. To keep up such rhythm, both physically and with line delivery is an impressive skill – and having seen the show with an American in the audience, the accents were commended as well.
The Star-Spangled Girl runs until the 30th of January, and if you’re looking for something funny, energetic and wonderfully watchable, this is exactly the show for you.