NEW YORK (AP) -- Older man. Younger woman. Boy, have playwrights been here before.
Yet it's amazing how much mileage playwright Samson Raphaelson got out of this well-worn plot device in "Accent on Youth," a mild comedy of manners initially seen on Broadway in 1934.
Not that Raphaelson's play is a lost masterpiece, but the revival that Manhattan Theatre Club opened Thursday at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre is an amiable, minor-league diversion.
For one thing, the production, directed by Daniel Sullivan, has been elegantly put together: from designer John Lee Beatty's spiffy, wood-paneled Manhattan apartment to Jane Greenwood's stylish period costumes, particularly for the ladies.
For another, its cast is headed by David Hyde Pierce, an actor who positively brims with likability. He exudes a genuineness that informs whatever role he plays, from a stage-struck detective in "Curtains" (for which he won a Tony Award) to his current part as a sleek, sophisticated theater dandy.
In "Youth," Pierce portrays a successful, 50-something Broadway playwright named Steven Gaye who is adored by Linda, his mousy young secretary, played by Mary Catherine Garrison. Gaye has written a new play called "Old Love," about a May-December romance, an idea he poo-poos in real life. He believes such a relationship could never be successful, despite his secretary's protestations and her earnest declaration of love.
Instead, he sends Linda into the arms of the egotistical young man (David Furr) who plays the juvenile lead in his latest effort. The matchmaking has disastrous results.
It's a flimsy tale, but Raphaelson has spun it out with the addition of several choice supporting characters, and Sullivan has cast them all savvily. Chief among them is Byron Jennings, one of theater's most reliable workhorses. He portrays a graying matinee idol who is cast in Gaye's play as an aging Lothario.
Also on hand is Charles Kimbrough as a proper manservant, a stock character no respectable 1930s comedy about the upper crust could do without. Kimbrough, exuding divine unctuousness, is a consummate comic who can get a giggle out of the most unlikely lines.
And the actor has to work hard to find them in Raphaelson's play, which does suffer from a paucity of genuine laughs. Garrison's character gets most of them, primarily in the first act when the forlorn secretary is overwhelmed by her desire for the playwright. The actress' desperation is delightful.
But one of the oddest things about "Accent of Youth" is how this secretary changes by Act 2. Gaye casts her as the leading lady in his play, which transforms her personality. The mouse turns into lion, and Garrison ends up trading sweetness for stridency in her depiction of the character.
But that aggressiveness makes her all the more appealing to Pierce's character and leads to what could possibly be construed as a happy ending. In 1930s comedies, that's the best way to bring the curtain down.
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