Voice of the Turtle
What: Play by Jon Van Druten, directed by Andrea la Vela
Where: Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre, 5021 East Anaheim,
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., matinees this Sunday, Sunday,
November 23 and Sunday, November 30 at 2 p.m., through December 6.
Tickets: $22, seniors $20, students $12 with valid identification.
Phone: (562) 494-1014
By John Farrell
Special to the Press-Telegram
The dance of romance always begins with a little good luck. A face seen across the ballroom floor, a conversation in a grocery store line; in Hollywood they call it a “cute meet.”
In Jon Van Druten’s light-hearted romantic comedy of budding love, “The Voice of the Turtle,” which opened a five-week run at the Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theatre November 1, (it continues through December 6) the luck comes when a young army sergeant, on leave in World War II Manhattan, is stood up by his date on a rainy Friday night and, without a hotel room in the wartime crush, spends the night on the day-bed of his lost date’s girlfriend.
“Voice of the Turtle” (the title comes from the Bible, and that turtle is a turtle-dove) is a comedy of words, a comedy of personalities, a comedy of two young people who aren’t looking for love; two attractive young people who are afraid and even disdainful of love, but find it anyway. It is a comedy of manners, of a sort, a reminder how much more restrained manners were in a world where a gentleman leaving a single women’s apartment late at night was almost a scandal.
The sergeant in “Voice of the Turtle” is Bill Page (Jim Felton) a self-described playboy who is stood up by Olive Lashbrooke, (Lisa Perez), and finds himself slowly falling for her friend Sally Middleton (Kate Woodruff.) Olive and Sally are both actresses, each looking for a break. Olive likes to play the field, and stands Bill up for a date with a Navy Commander. Sally is a bit of a character, superstitious about ringing phones and radios left playing, a charming innocent who hasn’t been made cynical by the theatrical life.
Woodruff is strikingly beautiful but her Sally isn’t aware of the fact. She is, for all her sophisticated lifestyle, still an innocent from the Midwest, mostly untouched by the wiles of Broadway.
Bill seems at first her opposite. He is charming and handsome and worldly, a man who spent a good deal of his youth living in Paris with his family’s wealth. Felton makes him likeable from the first, and though he calls himself a playboy, and has a list of girls to all in New York (they have all gotten married or entered the service,) you know where this romance is going well before the first act ends in a bedroom clinch.
The only complication that interferes with Bill and Sally’s happiness is Olive’s jealousy. She wants Bill back and isn’t too happy when she figures out what has happened to the handsome young soldier she jilted and then wanted back. Perez has that sense of style and brash personality that go with fox fur stoles and hats, and her possessiveness is just a minor impediment in Van Druten’s simple and charming fairy story of a romance. Bill and Sally are attractive youngsters, pleasantly amusing and loveable. Their ability to find love on a spring weekend in is refreshingly simple. You may have to suspend a lot of disbelief to accept their story (the Paris restaurant where Bill spent much of his earlier romance just happens to have opened next door to Sally’s apartment, for instance) but “Voice of the Turtle” is not a story of a troubled love, or a triumphant love. Instead it is an amusing and simple love story that was a huge hit on Broadway in wartime, became a successful movie and can still hold the stage as a simple story of two people who don’t fall in love so much as learn to love.
All the action of the play takes place in Sally’s modern apartment, designed to fit in the Mainstage’s large play space by Andrew Vonderschmitt, a place with more living room than many apartments. La Vela keeps the plat moving at a crisp pace, and gives her actors room to create real personalities, even as they wander through a world much more formal tan the one we live in today. Donna Fritsche created beautiful clothes for the production, notably an evening gown for Sally that earns a bit of applause on its own.
The right one-word description for “Voice of the Turtle” is charming. You won’t learn much (except a Bible quotation and a little Milton) and you won’t experience any existential angst. You’ll just be happier after you see it than you were before, and that is reward enough.
This story appeared in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Wednesday, November 12. John Farrell is a Long Beach freelance writer. More of his reviews can be found at http://byjohnfarrell.typepad.com/