If you’re of that certain age where you can recall the 1930s and you’re of that certain bent where you read the novelists of the time, and I don’t mean as a high school assignment, you’re going to enjoy the hell out of Scott and Hem now playing at Actors’ Playhouse. And of course, if you’re a little young for the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and even ’60s, but you can appreciate good theater, you’re going to enjoy the hell out of it too. It’s that kind of show; literary name and incident dropping to fuel the nostalgia and tight writing and acting to entice those to whom nostalgia might just be Granny’s affliction.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is in his suite in Hollywood’s Garden of Allah Hotel. It’s 1937 and the alcoholic Scott has been sober for nine days. He’s working on a movie script for Louis B. Mayer, under contract at $1,000 a week for six months. This, for him, is drudgery for slave wages. He fears he’s a failure, royalties from his novels are down to less than a trickle. Miss Evelyn Montaigne has been assigned by Mayer to keep Fitzgerald sober and to keep him writing. He has a midnight deadline for his current scene.
Ernest Hemingway walks in. And so begins an eighty minute flow of reminiscences, regrets, accusations, deals made and deals broken. They’ve been friends for many years and each the other’s biggest literary booster. But don’t talk about Zelda, Fitzgerald’s crazed wife. Scott will have none of that. But of course they do. And they gossip and whine and pontificate. Hemingway: “ If I had to choose between saving a sentence or saving Pauline (his second of four wives), I’d save the sentence.” Time and again they call themselves writers, the very best of the breed.
This is all great fun and fascinating to watch and director David Arisco made it doubly so by casting Tom Wahl as Scott Fitzgerald and Gregg Weiner as Hemingway. These two play off each other in grand fashion, Wahl as the slim, almost effete chronicler of the wealthy and Weiner as the burly, heavy drinking all he-man ("my mother sent me the gun my father used to kill himself").
Two good actors who are matched, smart ass line for line by the perfectly played Miss Eve Montaigne, Orlando’s Jennifer Christa Palmer. An acting hat trick for Arisco.
This is not an all talk fest; there’s a dandy furniture scattering fist fight between the two men, ending in an embarrassed embrace when Miss Montaigne walks in, a touch of homosexuality drifting across the room.
Scott and Hem, written by Mark St. Germain is a taut piece, slowed only by the off scene orgy antics of Dorothy Parker and a naked Tallulah Bankhead outside the balcony window.
Gene Seyfer created a realistic and well furnished Garden of Allah suite, Ellis Tillman designed the period costumes and Luke Klingberg, and Mitch Furman designed the lights and sound. Fight choreography is by Paul Homza.
Scott and Hem plays through June 8 at Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. 305-444-9293 http://www.actorsplayhouse.org