Newtown Arts Company, in existence since 1983, kicked off their 2011 season with the Kaufman and Hart version of roughing it, GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE. The show only runs a week, from February 10 – 16th @ the Newtown Theatre, 120 North State Street, Newtown, PA. This throw back theatre, complete with a second tier balcony, a popcorn/candy/soda lobby and a magnificent full length red velvet curtain complete with bunting, houses this theatre group whose mission is to raise scholarship funds for local students. To date, they have raised over $65,000 for their mission, a noble feat. Their season will consist of five other shows produced throughout the year, all on the same one week performance format.
The large cast consisted of David Danner, Larry Krevitz, Rebecca Bancroft, Amelia Arrigo, Matt Piette, Sandy Kitain, Mary Ann Wylie, Stuart Myles, Martha Stringer, Jacquelyn Pillsbury, Gary Lumpkin, Hilton Gieseke, Chris Eagin, Kristin Mellor, Allie DeKorte and Mike McCollum. The show was directed and produced by Jim Banar, assisted by Jackie Tamburrino as Stage Manager. George Pickering, Kevin Kane, Jane DeKorte and husband Dave, provided the technical and background support.
The play, which takes place in Bucks County, PA in the 1930’s, is now dated and it shows. It is not Kaufman and Hart’s best work. Their YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, written in 1936, won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. GEORGE is nowhere near that caliber of work. GEORGE attempts comedy and it does have some moments of amusement, but for the most part, it lacks the ability to hold people’s attention. It has a rambling style, with no real plot, no real reason. The main characters move from NYC to the “country” and go into the “Green Acres” mode. (As a matter of fact, the theatre group played the theme to “Green Acres” prior to the start of the show.) Bucks County today is nowhere near the hinterlands as it may have been in the 1930’s. The characters buy a rundown, 200 year old house and the husband fantasizes about the Revolutionary War heroes that may have wondered his grounds, while the wife, a city dweller, hates the idea. Compounding everything, is the fact that the house, if you can call it that, has no water, no heat, is in such disrepair that it is impossible to live in without major repairs. This causes him to spend good money after bad as he attempts to turn the property into a country estate. The plot, if anything, is that he starts to run out of money as the bills pile up and he quickly becomes overwhelmed with debt and a bank threatens to foreclose, all within a few months. I think this play, labeled as a “comedy”, is more of a FARCE. The husband buys the property without any research or due diligence and without his wife’s knowledge! Try that today. Thus, it was hard to understand in today’s terms. And honestly, it doesn’t even work as a period piece. God help people if they were really like that in the 1930’s.
I give credit to the cast and crew for attempting this piece. It is a difficult play to do and Newtown Arts did their best to make it an evening of entertaining theatre for their 100 patrons on Opening Night.
GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE
by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman
Directed by Jim Banar
February 10 – 16, 2011
Newtown Arts Company
120 North State Street