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IDIOT'S DELIGHT                        

by Robert E. Sherwood
First revival in NYC since 1951


Vital Theatre Company

Theatre Row . NYC 

COMEDY . This 1936 winner of the Pulitzer Prize is a "breezy" anti-war comedy that still packs a delightful wallop. Set on the imaginary eve of WWII in a resort hotel in the Italian Alps, a combustible array of characters discover they cannot cross the border. All are thrown together to choose love, death, or escape - as they will.

      

Winner, Off Off Broadway Review Award for Excellence

 

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"I'm tremendously grateful to Vital and director Julie Hamberg for giving the play a most spirited production.  Ron McClary and Aimee Hayes are marvelous as Harry and Irene."  Peter Filichia's Diary, THEATERMANIA.COM

      

"...smoothly directed by Julie Hamberg... Hamburg's production reduces the number of characters from 26 to 16 without any noticeable diminishment of either plot or meaning."  Victor Gluck, BACKSTAGE     

     

JESSI GOTTA as Beulah Tremoyne of 'Les Blondes'             NEAL FENTON playing the firey Frenchman Quillery             AIMEE HAYES looking sultry as the mysterious Irene             RON McCLARY tickling the ivories as Harry Van             JOSHUA COLE with the eyebrow, as the usually very civil Mr. Cherry             ALESSANDRA BONVICINI looking tough as Mrs. Pitaluga             The exceedinlty evil Achille Weber played by the much less evil RICHARD RICE ALAN

   

"... her gifted ensemble get all the laughs honestly and without resorting to caricature, slowly revealing the play’s warm and hopeful heart. The cast is uniformly authentic, affecting, and endearingly theatrical."  "...is a somber and joyful, smart and funny comfort..."  Stan Richardson, NYTHEATRE.COM

     

"New York theatregoers will get a rare chance to see what the Lunts saw in Sherwood's work when the Vital Theatre Company revives the 1937 Pulitzer Prize-winner, Idiot's Delight."  Robert Simonson PLAYBILL.COM

     

The lovely Mrs. Cherry looking stalwart here, played by ALYSSA SIMON             Dr. Waldersee dispeptically (and wonderfully) played by Christian Johnstone             The ever gallant Captain, played by the marvelous MICHAEL CHECCI            MICHAEL HUBER goes off to war as our beloved Dumpsty             Donald Navadel stunned into silence, played by Michael Lombardi             KATIE BRACK as Shirley who is taking a dramatic moment

  

“Hamberg decided to trust the talent of the author and got her cast to trust it too… trusted that the audience would follow… 
and have something to think about.”
  David Mackler, OOBR

     

"... brought to full life by Vital’s skillful staging and the talented ensemble of actors..."   Syd Steinhardt, OFF OFF ONLINE

     

     

CAST

PRODUCTION TEAM

RICHARD RICE ALAN*

ALESSANDRA BONVICINI

KATIE BRACK

MICHAEL CECCHI*

JOSHUA J. COLE

NEAL FENTON

JESSI GOTTA

AIMÉE HAYES

MICHAEL HUBER

CHRISTIAN JOHNSTONE

MICHAEL LOMBARDI*

RON McCLARY*

ALYSSA SIMON*

Achille Weber / Officer

Mrs. Pittaluga

Shirley Laughlin

Captain Locicero

Mr. Cherry

Quillery

Beulah Tremoyne

Irene

Dumpsty

Doctor Waldersee / Officer

Donald Navadel / Officer

Harry Van

Mrs. Cherry

ROBERT E. SHERWOOD

JULIE HAMBERG

CLAIRE HEWITT 

LISA BRENNER, PhD

TESSA LANEVE 

ROBERTO SANCHEZ-CAMUS 

VANESSA LEUCK 

CARRIE YACONO 

KELLY MARTIN 

KEVIN CREWELL

CHRISTINE SIMPSON 

JESSICA YOUNG 

SHARON FALLON 
STEPHEN SUNDERLIN
JULIE HAMBERG

Playwright

Director / Co-Producer

Assistant Director

Script Dramaturg

Production Stage Mgr.

Set Design

Costume Designer

Lighting Designer

Musical Director

Choreographer

Research Dramaturg

Costume Assistant

Program Coordinator
Artistic Director
Associate Artistic Director

DESCRIPTION

“Idiot's Delight,” originally written for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, tells the story of a young English couple on their honeymoon, 
a French socialist, a German scientist, a munitions magnate, the inscrutable but magnetic Russian Irene, and the vulgar but lovable American Harry Van and his blonde-bombshells who are thrown together.  Harry Van is our hero, a small-time performer who, after years of touring vaudeville circuits and sideshows, claims to finally have hit the big time in Europe with his stellar act, Les Blondes. He swears he's seen a glamorous and mysterious Russian Irene (pronounced “Ear-ray-na”) before - but she's  arrived on the arm of an international arms dealer.  The Dramatists Play Service rather grandly describes it thus:  "The play throws into ironic relief the individual human being who, having brought upon himself the obscene idiocy of wholesale destruction by war, wakes up to find that he can do nothing more than make a futile gesture against the forces he has set in action."  It's delightful.  No kidding.

Our script dramaturg, Lisa Brenner-Silberman, and I combined some characters such as Dumpsty (who is an amalgam 
of 3 characters), cut some (there were originally six Les Blondes & six soldiers), and did some judicious cutting of the text.  I chose to change the hotel owner to a female character, as there were few female roles.  Many who saw the original production on Broadway said they didn't miss a thing (story-wise) from that original script.  It was fascinating speaking with those audience members who actually experienced the original.  They were still so moved and grateful to see this play on it's feet again. 

One last thing.  There is a film version of this script featuring Clark Gable and Norma Shearer, written by Sherwood himself.  It's the only time that Gable sings and dances on film.  He does Irving Belin's "Puttin' on the Ritz".  (We chose to do "Anything Goes".)  The film's end, however, is pure Hollywood.  In the play, we end with bombs blasting and almost certain destruction.

 

ROBERT E. SHERWOOD BIOGRAPHY

Playwright ROBERT EMMET SHERWOOD, known for many plays including “The Petrified Forrest” has, in addition to "Idiot's Delight", garnered Pulitzers for his plays “Abe Lincoln in Illinois,” “There Shall Be No Night” and the memoir Roosevelt and Hopkins. Sherwood began his career in journalism as a critic and editor for both Life magazine and the New York Herald. His story for The Best Years of Our Lives earned Sherwood an Oscar for Best Screenplay and Rebecca was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Sherwood later became drama editor of Vanity Fair and, with his colleagues Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, found his way to the Algonquin Round Table. In 1938 Sherwood formed, with Maxwell Anderson, Sidney Howard, Elmer Rice, and S.N. Behrman, the Playwrights' Company, which became a major producing company. Even having written the pacifist "Idiot's Delight," Sherwood served President Franklin D. Roosevelt as speechwriter and adviser and later became special assistant to the Secretary of War and to the Secretary of the Navy and also served as Director of the overseas branch of the Office of War Information.  I'm extremely intrigued by the whole Playwright's Company - - and look forward to unearthing all their treasures. 

photos credits:

Roberto Sanchez-Camus

Brian Emery (color shots)

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Copyright Julie Hamberg 2007-2008. Last updated 12/02/2013.  

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