If you thought your love life was complicated, take a look at Tracy Lord's: On the eve of her wedding, the bride-to-be finds herself in a love triangle (or is it a square?) of the stickiest sort. Should she marry her safe, boring fiance? Pursue the poetic, judgmental reporter? Remarry her charming yet arrogant ex-husband? Such is the trouble at the heart of The Philadelphia Story, a tale of love, class, gender and the aphrodisiacal powers of Champagne. If the 1940 Oscar-winning film—which starred Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant—is an intimidating act to follow, this Clackamas Rep production of Philip Barry's original play doesn't let on. Within minutes, we're in the late 1930s, with the lavish red and gold hues of the set, shimmering dresses and classic tuxedos conjuring an air of aristocracy. Things start quietly (quite literally so), but the performers soon prove dynamic, and the dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny. As Tracy's uncle Willie, Ernie Casciato stands out with his self-deprecating humor: "The consolation for being old is, however you live, you'll never die young." And though her voice is sometimes too faint, Hillarie Putnam's Tracy blends strength, vulnerability and neuroticism. Most enjoyable is how the production rouses difficult questions: What does it mean to be a part of the upper class? When does our obsession with celebrity become harmful? What does it mean to be a strong and independent woman in a society uneasy with such a role? If nothing else, we learn this from The Philadelphia Story: When it comes to life and love, we still don't have the answers. But it sure is fun debating them.
SEE IT: The Philadelphia Story is at Clackamas Community College, Osterman Theatre, 19600 S Molalla Ave., Oregon City, 594-6047. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 pm Sundays through July 20. $12-$28.