LIGHT UP THE SKY, Goodman Theatre. This 1948 backstage comedy plays as if it were outdated even before Moss Hart wrote it. At a time when Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller were plying the same trade, Hart remained in a Depression-era showbiz world of Broadway starlets draped in furs, opening-night parties in Ritz Carlton suites, champagne toasts, and plots ready-made for Frank Capra. The character of Peter Sloan has been read as autobiographical: an idealistic young playwright, he emerges sadder but wiser from his encounters with flighty show business types. But today the character seems more the playwright Hart admired but could never become. The irony of Light Up the Sky is that the fictional play, which surmounts a bellicose producer, the caterwaulings of a fallen Broadway star, and other familiar Broadway types to become a hit, is far less calculated and cynical than Hart's effort, a textbook example of snappy showbiz panache.
Still, there's much to admire in the Goodman's finely polished production, directed by David Petrarca. The comic timing of a top-notch cast--including a gleefully acerbic Bobo Lewis and wide-eyed Tom Kiehfuss--underlines Hart's effervescent, sophisticated wit, and Michael Yeargan's lavish set is delightful. But this sprightly, irrelevant production gives the same eerie anachronistic feeling as a silent film made well into the era of talkies. Hart's last major work for the stage, it seems little more than a fond farewell to the theater, which the playwright could see was passing him by.