Holiday | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Holiday, Remy Bumppo, at Victory Gardens Theater. Few theatrical tasks could be more daunting than re-creating a beloved George Cukor movie starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. But director James Bohnen and company measure up with this graceful rendition of Philip Barry's 1928 romance about anomie among the privileged. Though we yearn to think rich people are miserable, in the wrong hands their problems can be infuriating because they seem so rarefied. Heiress Julia Seton is engaged to self-made man Johnny Case--but when it turns out there's more to him than "the reverence for riches," only Julia's eccentric sister Linda can truly understand. Barry has plenty of fun at the expense of stuffed shirts while creating a bohemian counterworld that's like the sunny side of F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Tender Is the Midday." Here, as in Barry's The Philadelphia Story, alcoholism constitutes a reasonable, almost principled stance against stultifying conventionality.

Linda Gillum is extraordinary as free-spirited Linda, handling the character's exaggerated sense of her own wrongs with enough self-awareness to make her sympathetic. And Shawn Douglass as Johnny is direct, genuine, and utterly lovable, though no one could mistake him for Cary Grant. The rest of the ensemble is up to the same standard, with Aaron Christensen a particular standout as drunken brother Ned. Rather than condemn or glorify alcoholism--the easy choices--Christensen simply inhabits it, turning in a subtle performance at once funny and heartbreaking.

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