DOSE OF REALITY: Maddy Lardner plays Libby Tucker in I Ought to Be in Pictures, the first Neil Simon play to explore serious social issues.AMERICAN playwright Neil Simon wasn’t sure how audiences would respond to his comedy I Ought to Be in Pictures when it premiered in 1979. People had laughed uproariously since the early 1960s at works such as Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple, but he changed his style in that show.
I Ought to Be in Pictures is set in a rundown Hollywood cottage, opening with a 19-year-old girl knocking on the door and asking the woman who opens it, Steffy, if screenwriter Herb Tucker is at home. Steffy, who is having a troubled one-night-a-week affair with Herb, learns that the visitor is Herb’s daughter Libby, whom he hasn’t seen since she was three, when he left his family in New York to head to Hollywood to become a screenwriter.
Libby wants her father to help her get work as a film actress, despite having done little stage work. Herb, however, is increasingly finding it hard to get his own work, and it is Libby that provesthe most helpful person when she stays with her father.
I Ought to Be in Pictures was Neil Simon’s first play to use comedy to look at serious issues, and it has been a crowd-pleaser since its inaugural production. In recent years it has become one of his most-staged works, and Newcastle audiences will have a chance to enjoy the play when Newcastle Theatre Company presents it for three weeks from January 20.
The play has just three characters, putting pressure on the actors who play them. But the trio in NTC’s production – Maddy Lardner as Libby, Mark Lidbury as Herb, and Renee Thomas as Steffy – are enjoying their roles.
Maddy Lardner says that she finds it easy to sympathise with Libby, given the issues she faces.
“She has lots of artistic talent, but she’s choosing the wrong way to express it,” she said.
“And she has had to be strong-willed while growing up, having to care for her little brother. She’s come to see her father because she has been unable to express her feelings to her mother.”
Maddy also sees her as very determined and brave, because she trekked across the United States from New York to Hollywood, not knowing how she would travel each day or where she would stay each night.
Director David Murray views the three characters as very real.
“A lot of Simon’s comedies don’t have the same reality,” he said.
“And it has funny lines that come up unexpectedly.”
I Ought to Be in Pictures opens on Saturday, January 20, at 8pm, followed by a 2pm Sunday matinee, then has shows on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, at 8pm, until February 3, plus a 2pm matinee on Saturday, January 27. Tickets: $30, concession $24; bookings 4952 4958 and newcastletheatrecompany苏州美甲.