Arlington Aubrey Piper is self-centered and self-deluded, a pathological liar and shameless publicity seeker determined to climb Philadelphia’s social ladder by any means necessary in George Kelly’s Pulitzer Prize nominated “The Show Off,” a production by The American Century Theater now playing at Gunston Theatre Two in Arlington.
Hailed as the biggest comedy of the season when it debuted on Broadway in 1924, “The Show Off” was selected by the Pulitzer Prize jury to receive its prestigious award before Columbia University officials overrode that decision in favor of faculty member Hatcher Hughes’ “Hell-Bent for Heaven.”
But it is Kelly’s play that has stood the test of time, with Artistic Director Jack Marshall noting in the program book that “no American comedy in the history of Broadway has been honored with more revivals on the Great White Way and Hollywood adaptations.”
Directed by Stephen Jarrett, “The Show Off” features a stellar ensemble cast led by David Gram in the title role with Helen Hayes Award winner Lee Mikeska Gardner as the exasperated Mrs. Fisher, Aubrey’s mother-in-law and outspoken antagonist.
Ever posing, primping and adjusting his toupee, Gram is compelling as the brash and boastful Aubrey, a $32.50-a-week clerk who passes himself off as president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Erin E. McGuff is Amy, his naïve and blindly faithful wife, with Jenna Berk as Aubrey’s more perceptive sister-in-law Clara.
Rounding out the cast are Evan Crump as Joe Fisher, Nello De Blasio as Frank Hyland, Craig Miller as Mr. Fisher, Bill Gordon as Mr. Gill and Joe Cronin as Mr. Rogers.
But it is Gardner’s deftly calibrated performance as Aubrey’s nemesis that stands out in this production and makes “The Show Off” one of The American Century Theater’s best comedy revivals in the repertoire of classic American theater.