Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Best Of Everything: An Eye-opening (and enjoyable) Trip to the 1950s

The 1950s doesn’t seem that long ago, most of the time.   The play The Best of Everything is based on Ronna Jaffe’s 1950s book and it looks at the period through a unique lens.  This theatrical adaptation is produced with the permission of The Rona Jaffe Foundation.  Ms. Jaffe was quoted as saying, "Back then, people didn’t talk about not being a virgin.  They didn’t talk about going out with married men.  They didn’t talk about abortion.  They didn’t talk about sexual harassment, which had no name in those days. I thought if I could help one young woman sitting in her tiny apartment thinking she was all alone and a bad girl, then the book would be worthwhile.”
Sarah Wilson & Alicia Sable in The Best of Everything

The Best of Everything certainly does talk about those things, in a frank way that shocks even some of the characters who say the lines.  The story follows Caroline (played to perfection by Sarah Wilson) as she moves from jilted fiancée, to secretarial pool, to Female Editor (there is only one).  Along the way, she and the other secretaries aim for love or marriage, rarely both.  She is told early that there are only two kinds of women in the office, the ones looking for husbands or the “ambitious” ones – who are ready to backstab other women to get ahead.
Caroline, however, loves her job, editing and being a reader.  She falls into the ambitious category without the backstabbing; but not without heartache.  Caroline slowly explores emotional and then sexual maturity without a husband in the 1950s.  It is a difficult road, and one without guideposts or mentors.  Ms. Wilson pulls the audience along with her as she tests the limits of the time and of herself.
Two of her friends, innocent April (a perky and believable Alicia Sable) and sultry Gregg (Hayley Teirder doing good job with the most dated character) don’t follow the traditional path - dating, marriage, and, only then, sex.  It has bad consequences for both women.  Although, for April at least, she is able to turn her life back around.  The idea that you could be a loose woman, and then later become respectable was new and groundbreaking.
Two of the other secretaries, Mary Agnes (a terrific Molly Lloyd) and Brenda (a hilarious Sas Goldberg) do get married and leave the office.  The Best of Everything shows a microcosm of women’s choices in the 1950s.  Ultimately, you probably couldn’t have the best of Everything, but you could have the best of some things.
Sarah Wilson and Amy Wilson
Tom O’Keefe plays nearly all the male parts excellently, bringing to life a couple of key moments.  The other man, the jilting fiancé, is well played by Jordan Geiger.  Amy Wilson under plays Miss Farrow nicely.  If you only know Miss Farrow from the movie with Joan Crawford, you will be surprised to see Ms. Wilson doing an excellent job of being a terror without sucking up all the oxygen in the room.
The show was adapted from the book and directed by Julie Kramer.  She has done an excellent job, moving the story along but keeping the audience invested in the characters.  Finally I have to give a huge credit to Daniel Urlie, whose costumes set the period perfectly.  It is a little thing, but when costuming is done badly it pulls the audience out of the moment, Mr. Urlie did a great job.
The Best of Everything is one of the rare shows that is funny, entertaining and still shows you something new.

The Best of Everything
Book: Ronna Jaffe
Adaptation: Julie Kramer
Development: Amy Wilson
Direction: Julie Kramer
Cast: Sarah Wilson, Jordan Geiger, Sas Goldberg, Molly Lloyd, Tom O’Keefe, Alicia Sable, Hayley Treider, Amy Wilson

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