Friday, July 19, 2024

Classic novel finds life on Southern California stage

Matthew Broderick’s amazing timing and droll delivery make him the perfect actor to play Babbitt, a play based on the 1922 Sinclair Lewis novel.

Babbitt, making its world premiere, plays to sold-out crowds at the La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California through December 10, 2023, and truly brings the book to life.

Playwright Joe DiPietro, who has long been one of my favorite writers thanks to his work with MemphisThe Toxic Avenger and Ernest Shackelton Loves Me, has painstakingly gone through the novel to bring as much of the story to the stage, including clever narration that makes us feel part of the book.

There are some edits here and there and even missing characters, but that doesn’t matter as the heart of the story comes through.

Babbitt is kind of an everyman’s Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. He seems simple-minded and gullible but people do follow what he says. He turns his routine life into something more meaningful and at times, not knowing he’s part of the flock instead of leading the herd.

I don’t know if anyone can portray this innocence more than Broderick, who uses his affectation in his voice and even-keeled tone to convey a lot of his character’s personality.

The rest of the cast mostly have multiple roles and seem to turn into other characters with just a quick change off-stage.  Anna Chlumsky (from TV’s Veep) is most impressive in her changes — from Babbitt’s daughter to a hi-brow society woman to a politician. 

Artistic Director (and Tony Award winner) Christopher Ashley does another fine job in helping actors reach their potential and working on filler time during quick changes. His actors also utilize the sets to full advantage which is stark and yet inviting — almost like enticing us all to read the book and feel as if we’re part of the words on the page. Kudos to you Walt Spangler and team.

La Jolla has another winner on its hands and while it sells out a lot, they do have some same day tickets available should you not find online availability.

For tickets and info go here.

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Kevin M. Thomas

Kevin M. Thomas, or @ReelKev, is an arts blogger and entertainment reporter. In addition to his own website, and ReelKev YouTube channel, Kevin used to be the LGBT arts writer for and contributes to as well as a semi-regular on San Francisco's cable TV show, "10 Percent."

Kevin M. Thomas has 157 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin M. Thomas

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