HOLIDAY, Headstrong Theatre. Pleasant but amazingly predictable, Philip Barry's 1928 social comedy was penned as a Jazz Age wake-up call to audiences to resist the "reverence for riches" that, then and now, threatens to sour the immediate enjoyment of life and love. Here the prospective marriage between a conventional heiress and a poor but worthy law student is thwarted when her free-spirited sister exposes her own clan's snobbish materialism.
Daniel Taube's stylish staging begins and ends with William T. Buster's showplace set. Period-perfect props and furnishings immerse the audience, seated in a single row, in a plutocrat's dream parlor--and in the second act, a children's playroom right out of a time capsule. Equally eye-popping fashion plate gowns and gewgaw jewelry seem to have lives of their own, creating the characters from the outside in. Though the play denounces filthy lucre, the trappings would make an anchorite salivate.
It's the players' challenge to rise to their costumes. Happily, Taube's elegant, attractive ensemble displays the obligatory mannered merriment. Cold and voguish, Laura Slater is suitably mercenary as the conformist sister. In the role that Katharine Hepburn memorialized on film, lovely Veronica Sheaffer sparkles but doesn't quite soar as the mercurial maverick sister. Torn between the two, Roger Ainslie's affable suitor looks his part magnificently but doesn't quite register the young man's moral tug-of-war. And as the drunken and probably gay brother, William T. Buster sinks into drink as pleasantly as a Prohibition-era audience could have imagined. --Lawrence Bommer