All you gals out there, have you ever wondered what you’d find inside your guy’s noggin if you could be privy to his fears and fantasies?
Playwright George Axelrod offers some insight in The Seven Year Itch, a 1952 Broadway smash that still has plenty to say about a man stepping into the quicksand of a midlife crisis.
At Miami Theater Center, director Stephanie Ansin and designer Fernando Calzadilla have done some nipping, tucking and adapting of Axelrod’s script, which famously became a 1955 Billy Wilder movie starring Tom Ewell and an impossibly tempting Marilyn Monroe. The film’s iconic image — Monroe wearing a white halter dress, the skirt billowing upward as she stands on a subway grate — is one that has launched a million fantasies.
The play, however, stays focused on the actions and interior life of one Richard Sherman (Aaron Glickman), a New York publishing executive charged with marketing steamily packaged paperbacks that sell for 25 cents (remember, it’s the ‘50s). With his wife Helen (Betsy Graver) and daughter Sally (Shira Abergel) away in Cohasset, Mass., for the summer, Dick Sherman is living like a bachelor in the family’s chic apartment — albeit a “bachelor” who has been told not to smoke or drink booze by a wife who says she’ll call every night at 10 to “check in.”
All that alone time gives the restless Sherman a chance to reflect on his life, imagining how Helen and other women see him. The play is not quite a farce, but The Seven Year Itch is definitely a comedy (though it’s one with sobering undertones). The action flows back and forth between real-world encounters and fantasy scenes, and it’s the latter that really spark director Ansin’s imagination.
Example? That famous Monroe image gets a startling reference at the top of the show, reappearing several times in a way that indicates Sherman’s jumbled inner life. Another? Sally (in the original production and movie, Sherman’s kid was a boy) tap dances at a talent show to My Heart Belongs to Daddy (a song Monroe delivered in the 1960 movie Let’s Make Love), and at the end flashes her ruffled panties. Oh, what a tangled Freudian web this Seven Year Itch weaves.
Glickman, publisher of SocialMiami.com, returns to the acting career he left behind when he came home from Los Angeles a decade ago. Sherman is the play’s focal point, and Glickman adroitly plays an average guy who’s wondering, as Peggy Lee put it, “Is that all there is?” His Sherman is kind of a mess, physically and emotionally, and though he goes where no married man should, Glickman’s amiability, precise comedic tone and sometimes manic energy make the audience hang in through his misadventures.
There are two other male characters in the play, stuffy celebrity psychiatrist Dr. Brubaker (James Howell) and Sherman’s fantasy rival Tom MacKenzie (the very funny Chaz Mena), but it’s the gals who power Sherman’s incessant fantasy life.
And in the “Monroe” part of The Girl, Diana Garle is a more wholesome-looking but undeniably tempting beauty, one who illustrates that it does indeed take two to tango.
Graver makes Helen a no-nonsense, glamorous women more than capable of inspiring jealousy in her guilt-ridden hubby. Jessica Farr is a Jessica Rabbit-style bombshell as Miss Morris, Sherman’s secretary. Abergel doubles, this time in a pixie cut and black bustier, as Sherman’s spied-upon neighbor Pat. Anaridia Burgos, playing a might-have-been conquest named Maria, teases Sherman solely in Spanish. As Elaine, an older pal of Helen’s, Linda Bernhard becomes a Ladies Who Lunch seductress.
Composer and sound designer Luciano Stazzone mixes original music with snippets of songs linked to Monroe (Sherman’s ultimate fantasy gal) and even an homage to the Leave It to Beaver theme song. Set, costume and lighting designer Calzadilla has given Sherman a stunning period pad and has dressed the women in a striking array of costumes, though his choices for the attractive Garle don’t always suit her body type.
Richard Sherman of The Seven Year Itch predates Don Draper, and he’s certainly no bad-boy hunk whose temptations are frequent and real. But as Miami Theater Center’s take on the comedy demonstrates, longing can quickly become a slippery slope.
IF YOU GO
What: ‘The Seven Year Itch’ by George Axelrod, adapted by Stephanie Ansin and Fernando Calzadilla.
Where: Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.
When: Previews Feb. 19-20, opens Feb. 21; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through March 22.
Cost: $35 ($150 opening night).
Information: 305-751-9550 or www.mtcmiami.org.