Playwright: Sue Cargill
At: Live Bait Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St.
Phone: (773) 871-1212; $15-$20
Runs through: March 7
Dolores Hart, née Dolores Marie Hicks, was always serious about her acting—raised in Hollywood (albeit parochial-schooled in Chicago), how could she be otherwise? And Hal Wallis, the head of Paramount Studios, saw a career ahead for this wholesome, but beautiful, teenager—a classy type, like Grace Kelly. What his devoutly Catholic protégée could not accept, however, was the offstage pressures dictated by tinseltown promotion, 1957-style.
With her first appearance as the girl who kissed an equally shy Elvis Presley (in only his SECOND film), she joined the pool of romantic-comedy ingenues cast in frivolous sex-romps like Where The Boys Are, her privacy harried by speculation regarding her practice of dating a variety of men (and 'dating,' in those days, was NOT synonymous with 'screwing,' as now). A successful stint on Broadway did not lead to a role in the subsequent film, but its proximity to Connecticut introduced her to the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a retreat whose contemplative lifestyle proved attractive to the young pilgrim struggling with a volatile universe. One day in 1963, Hart's car dropped her at the door of the abbey, where she entered, never to return.
The story recounted in Sue Cargill's Paramount Girl is a fascinating profile of an independent woman's determination to take charge of her life. But this is a PLAY, too, with most of its second act devoted to our heroine's defense of her decision under interrogation—not by her heartbroken fiancé, but by her boss, the sole person in her world with the savvy and tenacity to challenge her motives for renouncing the capitalist ethic for a future of selfless humility.
This confrontation is our reward for enduring a first act cluttered with Big Names, played in lightning-swift succession by Vanessa Greenway and Tom Hickey, neither of whom attempt to reproduce—or even differentiate—the voices of their subjects. Mark Vallarta's characterization for Wallis, however, presents us with a personality complex enough to encompass the changes required by the text as he spars with Alexandra Blatt, who looks amazingly like Hart (though more like Ingrid Bergman). Their arguments are what render satisfactory our final picture of a talent utilized securely and contentedly in the service of its owner's convictions.