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Romantic sparks fly in 'Philadelphia Story'

Clackamas Repertory Theatre will kick off its 10th anniversary year when the romantic comedy, “The Philadelphia Story,” takes to the stage on June 27, in Oregon City.

by: COURTESY OF TRAVIS NODURFT/CRC - Main character Hillarie Putnam, who actually lives in Alaska, and three handsome co-starring men - (from left) Dennis Kelly, Jayson Shanafelt, Tom Walton - lead the production of 'The Philadelphia Story' by Clackamas Repertory Theatre, one of Portland's finest suburban theater companies.The plot of the play, set in the late 1930s, revolves around Tracy Lord, a Philadelphia socialite, whose next-day wedding plans are disrupted by the appearance of her ex-husband and an encounter with a handsome tabloid magazine reporter assigned to cover the society wedding.

by: COURTESY OF CRC - Doren Elias directs CRCs 'The Philadelphia Story,' saying it'll throw the audience back to a different period.That’s when “sparks start to fly,” said director Doren Elias, associate artistic director of CRT.

As the play progresses, the characters engage in witty repartee, champagne flows, fists fly, and things don’t turn out the way they were planned.

The play was a hit on Broadway in 1939, but is best remembered as the 1940 movie version, with Katharine Hepburn reprising her role as Tracy; Cary Grant playing Dexter, her former husband, and Jimmy Stewart starring as Mike Connor, the reporter from Spy magazine.

Hillarie Putnam

In the CRT version, Hillarie Putnam is willing to commute from Seattle to Oregon City to tackle Tracy, because she loves the character.

“She has so much internal conflict that many women have to deal with. This show, however, allows for much of those issues to boil to the surface, and when it happens in a stage comedy, allows people to relate,” she said.

Putnam was an Alaska resident and ardent outdoorswoman, who moved to the Pacific Northwest nearly three years ago. She met Elias in Portland, he asked her to play Tracy, “and the rest is history,” she said.

She has a number of film and television credits in Los Angeles, and can be seen hunting bears in Kodiak, Alaska, in the documentary “The Hunt” on The History Channel on Sunday nights.

People need to come see “The Philadelphia Story,” Putnam said, “because it is a quick-witted, intelligent, attractive and relatable romantic comedy. It is amazing how even though years have passed since the show drew its very first curtain, all the elements are still seen in relationships today.”

Her favorite scene actually comes in the second act when Dexter and Tracy “illustrate, in great comedic fashion, sometimes even our biggest mistakes can be the accidents that teach us the most. In doing so they remind us to give ourselves a break and always surround ourselves with friends who understand, because sometimes it takes falling down to really move forward,” she said.

A trio of suitors

As the play progresses, Tracy finds herself surrounded by three very different men vying for her attention: Dexter, her ex-husband; Mike, a reporter; and, of course, George, her fiance.

Playing Dexter is Tom Walton, a chiropractor with a clinic in downtown Portland.

Although this marks his CRT debut, he has been a member of the Northwest Classical Theatre Company for the past 13 years, and has appeared on other Portland stages.

Dexter, he said, “is from a different era. He comes from money and has always been surrounded by money.”

It is an honor and “great fun to play those roles that the greats have played in the past. Wonderful actors like Cary Grant said these same words,” Walton said.

What does he like best about his character?

“He finds humor in every situation. Nothing scares him, and he sees what he wants, and he goes after it.”

Walton added, “This is a charming, fun love story that will allow people to sit back and step into a different time.”

Jayson Shanafelt, a longtime CRT company member, has some experience playing a role associated with Stewart since he played the lead in last year’s CRT production of “Harvey.”

“It is always interesting to do a piece revamping an older icon,” he said about playing the reporter who catches Tracy’s eye.

“People enjoy seeing how it is modernized, and we are always trying to find a balance between a period piece and making it relevant,” he added.

Finally, Dennis Kelly plays George Kitteridge, Tracy’s fiance.

George is a former coal magnate from outside Philadelphia,with a “rags to riches” story, Kelly said, adding that his character thinks that by marrying Tracy he will “move into that network, that social strata, that will grease the wheels” of his ambitions.

George expects the weekend before his wedding “to go swimmingly, but it doesn’t,” Kelly said.

Mischief and wit

Two other female characters add to the story line: Dinah, Tracy’s younger sister, who arranges to get Dexter back on the scene, and Liz, the photographer who accompanies Mike to Tracy’s home the night before the wedding.

Aislin Courtis, 17, who just completed her junior year at LaSalle High School, describes Dinah as “a troublemaker who wants to get her sister and Dexter back together.”

Dinah also “says the wrong things at the wrong time and doesn’t fully understand the repercussions” of her actions, Courtis said.

Liz, on the other hand, “is a very smart, modern woman. She’s the type to take control of her own life,” said CRT company member Jayne Stevens.

What she likes best about her character is “her wit and her one-liners. She says things other women don’t say.”

Comedic ‘romp’

Elias directed “Harvey” last year, so he has some experience “re-inventing a different and fresher look” for period material.

Audiences will like the fact that there are some parallels between when “The Philadelphia Story” takes place and current times, he said, adding that “there are some timely political messages and issues, and it is fun seeing celebrities knocked off their perches.”

But at heart, he added, the play is “a romantic-comedy romp, with crackling dialogue and great witticisms. It will throw the audience back to a different period.”

Hot ticket

What: Clackamas Repertory Theatre presents Philip Barry’s classic American screwball comedy, “The Philadelphia Story,” directed by Doren Elias.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees, June 27 through July 20.

Where: Osterman Theatre at Clackamas Community College, 19600 S. Molalla Ave., Oregon City.

Tickets: Tickets may be purchased at clackamasrep.org or by calling 503-594-6047.

The cast includes: Ernie Casciato, Aislin Courtis, Jim Eikrem, Dennis Kelly, Hillarie Putnam, Cyndy Ramsey-Rier, Jayson Shanafelt, James Sharinghousen, Jayne Stevens, Tom Walton and Don Wright.

Coming up: Clackamas Rep continues its season in August with “Carousel,” and concludes with the comedy/drama “Good People,” by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Lindsay-Abaire, in late September.

Visit: clackamasrep.org for more info.



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