In this Friday, May 25, 2012 publicity photo released by David Gersten & Associates, from left, Angela Pierce, Thomas Matthew Kelley, and Heidi Armbruster, are shown in a scene from Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles’ comedy, “Love Goes To Press,” currently performing off-Broadway at The Mint Theater in New York. (AP Photo/David Gersten & Associates, Richard Termine)
NEW YORK (AP) — At last, a play that knows what women really want: Some of them want to get to the battlefront in wartime.
Female journalists were still a rarity during World War II, and the male press officers in charge generally did their best to divert them from getting near the fighting. Two American writers, Virginia Cowles and Martha Gellhorn, who often successfully navigated the military bureaucracies of whatever country they were in, wrote a play in the mid-1940s that merrily satirized their recent overseas adventures as female war correspondents during World War II.
Set in Italy in a fictional Allied press camp in the winter of 1944, their satire was given a title that irritated them greatly, according to a forward added by Gellhorn in 1995: “Love Goes To Press.” The comedy has been revived in a lively production off-Broadway by the Mint Theater Company, featuring an accomplished cast that successfully embodies the original humor.
Heidi Armbruster and Angela Pierce are both comical and charming as the two smart, attractive, intrepid writers. Pierce is down-to-earth and pert as Jane Mason, “internationally known, glamorous war correspondent.” Jane is thrilled when her old friend Annabelle Jones, (Armbruster, slinky and worldly), unexpectedly blows into the camp, and the two are soon scheming how best to get either to the front line 8 miles away, or get dropped behind the lines in Yugoslavia or Poland. Conveniently, there are generals, aviators and other military men who enjoy flirting with them and providing transport to where the action is.
Director Jerry Ruiz does pretty well at keeping the 11 characters in constant motion, although the action slows down a bit in the second and third acts, when these self-possessed, independent women become farcically starry-eyed about their respective love interests.
Bradley Cover is fun to watch as Philip, the initially pompous British major in charge of the shabby press camp, who despises “woman correspondents” and deliberately houses the pair in a cold, tiny storeroom. Cover lets his aloofness and hostility melt away as his affections develop for Jane, and one of the funnier bits in the play is Philip’s loving description — to Jane’s barely concealed horror — of the backbreaking farming activities that his mother and sister endure while running his Yorkshire estate.
Rob Breckenridge is enthusiastically despicable as American correspondent Joe Rogers, a deceitful, Hemingway-esque caricature. Joe was formerly married to Annabelle, who dumped him for stealing her scoops, but she may be starting to believe his swinish lies again.
Margot White is captivating, wide-eyed and preening as the very shallow Daphne Rutherford, an English singer who blithely views the entire world as her personal stage. In the greatest irony within the play, Daphne eventually scoops the two female journalists after accidentally getting stuck under fire at the nearby front line, despite her aversion to danger.
Ned Noyes is quietly effective as a cheerful, warm-hearted orderly, Corporal Cramp, and five other capable actors round out the cast as journalists and military officers.
You can almost taste the whiskey-laden cups of tea served on Steven C. Kemp’s vintage-furnished set that includes impressive glimpses of the bombed-out Italian countryside. Andrea Varga’s sexy, ’40s-era costumes and mink coats for the women add an air of glamour amid the smart brown and khaki military uniforms. Some wonderful props, notably the battered phone receiver housed in a wooden box, embellish the period atmosphere.
Jonathan Bank, the Mint’s artistic director, continues his mission to “excavate buried theatrical treasures,” providing, as always, program notes that add historical depth and interest to this zesty presentation of “Love Goes To Press.”