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Strictly Dishonorable

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STRICTLY DISHONORABLE, American Theater Company. No one would bother to revive this 1931 script if its author weren't Preston Sturges, whose later film work defined the fast-talking cynical comedy of social comment. Set in a speakeasy, Strictly Dishonorable features occasional flashes of the wit for which Sturges became famous but mostly predictable responses to predictable situations. Pleasant enough, it's hardly groundbreaking.

Director Damon Kiely and his crew do their best, even gamely affecting the music-hall Italian accents required of the speakeasy's owner, waiters, and most famous customer, the Count di Ruvo. Leading the charge is Molly Glynn as Isabelle, the southern belle whose "innocence" barely conceals her knack for getting what she wants. Glynn has perfect timing, wielding her numerous drinks like so many swords as she battles her fiance, appeals to the chivalry of resident drunk Judge Dempsey (the charming John Mohrlein), and utterly enchants the count (Ansa Akyea, whose sweet parody of Enrico Caruso isn't quite exaggerated enough for comedy). Standout support comes from Joshua Holden as the waiter who can make an entire tray of glasses tremble in unison and John G. Connolly as Mulligan, the beat cop who never met a liquid bribe he didn't like. Rebekka Steiling's period costumes are hilarious--the count's robe makes him look like an Eastern potentate on steroids--and Scott Cooper's sets, particularly the count's lavish apartment, ably evoke the Roaring 20s. All of them deserve a better play.

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