Seeing Pitch Blond at Factory Theatre’s intimate Antechamber is a lot of fun. It’s a bit like sneaking away from Next Stage Theatre Festival, finding a cozy bar and sharing an intimate drink with a new friend.
Pitch Blond is based on the life of Judy Holliday. Holliday made a career out of playing dumb blondes. She won an Oscar and several other prestigious awards doing so. Meanwhile, she possessed an almost super-human intelligence. It was hard not to be reminded of Gracie Allen or even Lucille Ball while enjoying a drink with Judy, or should I say, watching the play.
Laura Anne Harris wrote the one-woman play and plays Holliday. Harris doesn’t play Holliday so much as she becomes her. It is a fascinating and startling transformation. She adopts Holliday’s mannerisms, smile, voice, awkwardness and persona.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Andy Kaufman. Seeing Andy become Elvis was amazing. He would play a role so convincingly, so gung-ho that he would be threatened with, or even endure, physical assault.
I thought Harris entered the same territory with her portrayal of Holliday.
This was my first visit to the antechamber, so I’m not sure if the setup is typical. It felt like a “site-specific” Fringe play. During the course of the short play, Holliday re-enacts some of her most famous incidents. She interviews for Orson Welles, acts as a switchboard operator and testifies before Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist commission.
It’s really fun watching Holliday operate a switchboard or fumble with items on the bar.
During every second of the thirty minutes, the uber-talented Harris oozed charisma as Judy Holliday. Every person in the antechamber wanted to chat with her or buy her a drink.
If there is a problem with this version of Pitch Blond, it is its length. This is a 30 minute version of the original 60 minute play. It’s a passing glance, a “damn, wish we had more time” encounter. To me it feels like there’s really no context and it feels a bit like Harris is auditioning for a larger role.
It takes a while for this Pitch Blond to digest after you see it, but once it does, you will want more. If the original version is ever re-mounted in Toronto, I’ll be there.
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for all shows are $15 for Evening Performances (7:00PM and after start time), $12 for Afternoon Performances (6:59 or before start time) and $10 for Ante-chamber performances
- Showtimes and ticket information for Pitch Blond are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/
-photo of Laura Anne Harris by Jacklyn Atlas