“The Philadelphia Story” Portrayed on the Parker Stage

On Thursday, Oct. 2, the Department of Theatre Arts opened the classic play “The Philadelphia Story” at Parker Theatre, giving a glimpse to life in the Philly suburbs during the 1930s.

“The Philadelphia Story” is a 1939 comedy play written by Philip Barry.  It was made famous by the 1940 movie adaption that starred Cary Grant, James Stewart and Katherine Hepburn.

The play depicts Tracy Lord played by fourth-year  Brittany Martel, a wealthy socialite preparing for her wedding.  Her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven, played by fourth-year Jeremy Sapadin, arrives uninvited, complicating the situation.  Reporters Mike Conner and Liz Imbrie, played by third-year Maurice Chinnery and fourth-year Sophia Beratta, respectively, show up to cover the wedding, and end up creating more problems as well.

Adjunct Professor Brendan Burke directed the play and said he felt that the cast did a great job.

“The cast was wonderful to work with,” said Burke. “They’re a hardworking and dedicated bunch. The language of the play (and the style of the period) was particularly challenging, but by focusing on the story-telling we were able to achieve our goals.”

“The Philadelphia Story” is the first play Burke has directed at New Paltz, although he has been a professional director for over 20 years.

“The casting is an important and enjoyable part of the process for me,” Burke said.  “There are the physical traits, of course, but really you are essentially looking for the person who naturally meshes with the spine of the character you’re casting.  And the casting must, overall, help tell the story.”

Dinah Lord, younger sister of Tracy, was played by third-year Stephanie Caban, and wowed the audience with her youthfulness and energy.  Attendees seemed to greatly enjoyed Uncle Willie, played by Matthew Limerick, who constantly provided humor at the right moments.

Assistant Director Casey Morris said she felt the writing of the play was what made the show a success.

“Ultimately, the script’s well-developed characters and skillfully crafted plot are what make this play one of the classics still beloved to this day,” Morris said.

Attendees to the Oct. 5 afternoon show included students, faculty and Ulster County residents.  Margaret Palmer is a Kingston resident who frequently attends plays at New Paltz.

“I try to see all of the productions every year,” said Palmer.  “I really enjoyed [The Philadelphia Story], it had a lot of character, more than I’m used to seeing.  Very impressive.”

Palmer also mentioned that she felt Brittany Martel and Jeremy Sapadin put on a “perfect performance” as Tracy Lord and her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven, respectively.

The play lasted about two hours, and ended with a large ovation from the audience. The next showings of the production are Oct. 16 to Oct. 19.