Irving — A corporation laser-focused on profit and lining their own products. A disgruntled stockholder who attends the annual meeting and raises objections to management salaries. A job offer meant simply to shut her up. Sound like something out of today’s headlines? It’s the story behind Solid Gold Cadillac, written by George S. Kaufman in 1953.
Now running at Irving Arts Center’s Dupree Theater in a production by Mainstage Irving-Las Colinas, directed by Dave Schmidt, this engaging play is full of snappy quips, rapid-fire banter and an unseen narrator who pithily keeps the audience abreast of the all the goings-on.
The stockholder, one Laura Partridge (Dana Harrison) is the proud owner of exactly ten shares of General Products’ stock. Harrison is appealing as she grows from a timid presence at the company meeting to a fierce defender of all the small shareholders the company is out to fleece. She shows a warm, maternal side with her uptight secretary, then shoots a razor-sharp putdown at a management suit who tries to insult her. Harrison is clearly having fun with the role and has plenty of opportunities to demonstrate her range.
In contrast, the four Board members are not well-developed characters. It's the script and not any fault of the actors, but each is basically a stereotype: the bombastic boss, the second in command, the nasty money guy and the beleaguered secretary. Still, there are funny lines. As General Products’ Chairman John Blessington, Neil Rogers sums up their collective intentions; “If General Products doesn’t make it, there’s no money in it.” Rogers makes the most of the line, and Clayton Cunningham, Craig Boleman and Joe Porter as Snell, Metcalfe and Gillie, respectively, all show a flair for physical comedy that’s entertaining to watch.
The wild card in these proceedings is Mr. McKeever (Allen Matthews). He has left the company to take an assignment in Washington and Harrison is sent to wrest some government contracts out of him. Instead she gains a staunch ally who may just have a romantic interest in her. Matthews is convincing as a good-hearted man who simply wants to return to his roots and run a company hands on. A spot-on scene where he recreates his prize-winning boyhood recitation piece had the audience laughing heartily in recognition.
Director Schmidt also does sound design duties; sets are by Ellen Doyle Mizener, with period furniture and accessories that bring the 1950’s office atmosphere delightfully to life. The console TVs on wheels with actors seated inside to deliver the news are a great touch. Costumes, by Emilee Kyle, are also authentic.
It’s not necessary to outline all the plot twists in the play. Suffice it to say, everything works out for the best. The bad guys lose and the little guy (or in this case girl) triumphs. It’s lightweight, but an upbeat antidote to the cynicism of office dramas like Mad Men. This Cadillac is well worth taking out for a ride.