By the third act of Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles’ 1946 romantic comedy, Love Goes To Press, one of the play’s leading characters, a female war correspondent considered tops in her field, begins discussing marriage with the handsome soldier who has captured her heart. When the stuffy British Major speaks romantically of how his love will, naturally, give up her career and go to Yorkshire to stay with his mother until they get married, the 2012 audience members around me, naturally, smirked and guffawed at the absurdity of his antiquated assumptions.
To his credit, Bradford Cover, the actor playing the stiff upper-lipper, spoke with the utmost of noble sincerity, as though he were Prince Charming granting Cinderella the life she had always dreamed of, making the scene that much funnier. But was it all that comical when Love Goes To Press premiered as a West End hit, when the women who had taken on nontraditional roles in the workforce during World War II were now faced with the assumption that they’d automatically go back to being housewives?
Part of the fun of attending Mint Theatre Company productions is getting immersed in the world of the audiences from long ago. The treasured Off-Broadway company specializes in plays that achieved some substantial degree of popularity – usually from the first half of the 20th Century – but became forgotten with the passing of time. Despite its London success, the only playwrighting effort of Gellhorn and Cowles, who based the work on their own experiences as respected war correspondents, lasted only four performances on Broadway.
Intended by the authors to be little more than a lark, Love Goes To Press, proves an enjoyable museum piece that cruises on its snappy dialogue but stumbles a bit because the story’s most interesting moments either take place in the past (showing up to cover a battle in a smart Schiaparelli number) or off-stage (a dim-witted entertainer being mistaken for a reporter and taken to the front lines).
Heidi Armbruster and Angela Pierce make for a swell pair of smart-talking adventurers as Annabelle Jones and Jane Mason, who are both revered for their skills at getting dangerous stories and resented for being women. They share the kind of camaraderie that comes with being the only people who know what each other is going through. Arriving separately at a battered Italian home serving as a press camp while Allied troops advance on Germany, both are plotting dangerous missions while being surprised by romantic encounters; Jane being courted by the British Major as bombs cause the building to shake and rain rubble on them and Annabelle being reunited with her ex-husband, Joe, the kind of writer whose idea of journalistic inspiration is to get drunk and write a think piece. (Their relationship was no doubt inspired by Gellhorn’s 5-year marriage to Ernest Hemingway.)
The colorful characters surrounding them include Joe’s ditzy fiancée, Daphne (Margot White in a good comical turn), and Jay Patterson and Curzon Dobell as a pair of reporters on the lookout for stories to steal between games of gin rummy and indulging in liquor rations.
Director Jerry Ruiz makes some odd shifts in tone, playing for realistic laughs most of the time but overplaying some of the romance, but it’s a handsome production, thanks to the excellent work of Steven C. Kemp (sets), Andrea Varga (costumes), Christian DeAngelis (lights) and Jane Shaw (sound). A frisky and entertaining evening that is, indeed, a lark.
Photos by Richard Termine: Top: Heidi Armbruster (above) and Angela Pierce; Bottom: Rob Breckenridge and Heidi Armbruster.
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