Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Seven Year Itch Review

The Seven Year Itch
(Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury)

For the last few years the Salisbury Playhouse has surprised me. It has put on some fine productions such as A Taste of Honey, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Private Lives. I was even impressed by the way they would go to great lengths when designing and constructing the sets, from the van in The Lady in the Van, to a temporary theatre-in-the-round for last year's Way Upstream, with the stage consisting of a water tank with a real boat within. I was quite interested in seeing one of their first productions this year, The Seven Year Itch, a 1952 play by George Axelrod on which the 1955 film with Marilyn Monroe was based. But does this production hold up to the Playhouse's preceding productions?

A publishing executive, Richard Sherman (Gyuri Sarossy), stays in his apartment whilst Helen Sherman (Hattie Ladbury), whom he had married seven years ago, and his son go on their summer holiday. He meets a girl (Verity Rushworth), a model who is living in the apartment above him, after her tomato plant of hers falls and narrowly musses him on his balcony. He becomes attracted to her and invites her down to his apartment. His growing desires leaves him divided between his wife and this girl.

The best moments of the play are when Richard Sherman is on his own, during which he breaks the fourth wall and tells the audience his thoughts. This slice of life was quite interesting to observe, and Gyuri Sarossy was convincing as an 'average joe' who tries to fight off his desires for the girl. It almost felt as though I was sitting in his apartment and chatting with him like an old friend. I would have preferred to listen to him  rather than Verity Rushworth as the 'girl'.

Fortunately I have not seen the film, so I cannot start comparing Rushworth to Marilyn Monroe. She does show the girl's naivety to Sherman's advances. Yet she did not seem convincing as a girl who would attract Richard to the point where he would go back and forth between her and his wife with such passion. Any further advance made by Richard did not seem believable. I even wondered whether the tomato plant incident was a moment of ambiguity. Was it an accident or intentional? Yet Rushworth made this sense of ambiguity feel void of any need to consider.

Otherwise the supporting cast members provided some comedic and entertaining moments during the play. Gerard Murphy plays Dr. Brubaker, a psychiatrist who has his novels published by Sherman, a large, puffed up man who attempts to assess his publisher's desires. Hattie Ladbury and Michael Stevenson play Helen Sherman and Tom Mackenzie who, according to a suspicious Richard Sherman, is her supposed to be her lover. They play the love scenes Richard imagines dramatically

These imaginary scenes were well stylised. The set would be lit in pinks and blues to show Richard's neurotic mind. The scenes were played as though they were straight out of a movie, the high point happening during the second act, where a homely scene takes a dramatic U turn. Again the Salisbury Playhouse has done wonders creating a big apartment onstage, with kitchen, balcony, staircase and piano included

Once again the theatre has proved that a local in-house production can pull the stops out to create a detailed setting. The supporting characters brought some great moments to the production, yet the main elements of the story could not carry the production entirely. Gyuri Sarossy could on his own, yet Rushworth did not have the charisma to pull off the alluring girl that Sherman madly falls for. This overall is worth a low Bargain

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