Without an actress who can evoke the true essence of Judy Holliday you might as well forget writing a play about her. Luckily, Bob Sloan, the creator and director of Just in Time – The Judy Holliday Story, which is being performed at The SoHo Playhouse as part of the NYC Fringe Festival, has found just the right person. Her name is Marina Squerciati.
With utmost sincerity she becomes Judith Tuvim. And then, Judy Holliday when Hollywood made her lose weight and change her name. Marina Squerciati is at once the insecure, honest and smart as a fox dumb blonde. The vulnerable, anagram and crossword puzzle aficionado, steadfast friend and loving mother who is able to deal with her Jewish, star struck stage mother Helen (beautifully brought to overbearing life by Mary Gutzi) and who is able to evoke laughter and tears with her Swiss clock work timing and delivering her lines with the special vocal quality that belonged unmistakably to Judy Holliday.
Marina Squerciati has Holliday’s endearing personality, quirks and all, down pat. It’s a delight to watch her in this play that tells you everything you need to know about the star in 88 minutes. But that’s not enough time to do Judy Holliday justice and regretfully diminishes the total pleasure that “Just in Time” could be.
It’s her life and death in a nut shell, so to speak, with three songs. Condensed and compressed. It’s 1951 and she has been nominated for an Academy Award for the Garson Kanin comedy “Born Yesterday” which was originally written for the stage for Jean Arthur. In flashback, we see what tricks of fate led her to this point and beyond.
Her job as switchboard operator at The Mercury Theatre headed by Orson Welles and John Houseman which would later be turned into “Bells Are Ringing” by her on again off again friends Betty Comden and Adolph Green whom she started out with at the Village Vanguard as The Revuers. Her appearance on What’s My Line? which segues into the HUAC investigation into her being a communist and her inability to work for over three years because of it.
The men in her life, and there were many, are portrayed by Adam Harrington who has some hits and some misses – included are Jimmy Durante, Peter Lawford and Harry Cohn et al. Cameo appearances by Dorothy Kilgallen, Gloria Swanson and Hepburn are deliciously played by Catherine Lefrere who threatens to take over with her insightful portrayals.
At times, the script becomes a bit repetitive with Judy declaring over and over that she doesn’t want to be an actress – that she wants to write and direct and make a difference in the world. But overall, “Just in Time” is an enjoyable and touching affair with Miss Judith Tuvim also known as Judy Holliday. It’s an entertaining tribute to an original and very special lady. www.FringeNYC.org www.thejudyhollidaystory.com