Drawing on the old adage "write what you know," Gellhorn and Cowles, both newspaper women who covered both the Spanish Civil War and World War II, center the play among the members of the U.S. and British press corps in Italy in 1944, just miles from the frontlines where the Germans are laying siege (sound designer Jane Shaw makes sure that audiences feel each shell that bursts nearby) to a fort held by American troops.
It's here, amid an all-guys club of reporters, that two women arrive, Jane Mason (Angela Pierce) and Annabelle Jones (Heidi Armbruster), both seasoned journalists themselves, causing a variety of responses from their male counterparts, ranging from giddy pleasure felt by the laidback Tex (a droll Jay Patterson) and the wisecracking Hank (a sharp performance from Curzon Dobell), two American reporters who've worked with them before, to disdain, particularly from Major Philip Brooke-Jervaux (Bradford Cover), the public relations officer for the corps.
While Jane works to finagle a scoop for her paper about the troops trapped inside the fort, and Annabelle works to get herself flown by air force pilot Dick Hawkins (played endearingly by Thomas Matthew Kelley), romance -- both caustic and bittersweet -- blossoms.
For Annabelle, whom Armbruster imbues with both a schoolgirl's exuberance and a wizened broad's toughness, love actually re-erupts as her ex-husband, rival reporter Joe Rogers (made a wooden Clark Gable-like he-man by Rob Breckenridge), is also stationed in Italy and engaged to a ditzy British stage star, Daphne (an unfortunately one-note performance from Margot White).
This romantic triangle -- and Joe's penchant for trumping Annabelle's stories in the guise of caring for her -- has more than a few twists, one of which pushes the show into the realm of blithely giddy farce.
Audiences will sense what's coming for Pierce's tough-as-nails, yet somewhat delicate, Jane and Cover's amusingly rigid, but also teddy bear-like major as soon as they lay eyes on one another. And it's a real pleasure to watch the two performers as they shade the terrific antagonistic chemistry they share with a slowly growing warmth and affection.
For both Jane and Annabelle, their relationships with these men also cause them to question the primacy of their careers, and it's a tribute to the sensitive writing (and Ruiz's direction) that any discussions about balancing work and a quiet home life generally feels as light and airy as the wisecracks and zingers that fly alongside them in this welcomely resurrected comic gem.
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