Shells aren’t all that’s exploding at the Poggibonsi press camp in Italy. As World War II rages outside, the passions of two enterprising female reporters near the front lines detonate in Love Goes to Press, a smartly silly 1946 screwball comedy by pioneering war correspondents Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles. Jerry Ruiz’s gleaming revival (remarkably, the first since the play bombed on Broadway) emerges as both contemporarily entertaining and of its time, and the irresistible Angela Pierce and Heidi Armbruster wear with aplomb roles that could have fit Rosalind Russell or Katharine Hepburn back in the day.
The authors’ surrogates, Jane Mason (Pierce) and Annabelle Jones (Armbruster), are serious about their careers but still feminine (attire includes khakis offset with bright red nail polish and lipstick). Most of their male peers welcome them, but their presence riles Philip (Bradford Cover), a sour British PR officer who ends up wooing Jane, and Annabelle’s ex-husband, Joe (Rob Breckenridge), a competitive colleague and story stealer for whom she still pines.
War is just the backdrop for what is really a workplace and relationship comedy, a kind of mid-20th-century chick-lit tale, if you will. But for Gellhorn, Cowles, Ruiz and his top-drawer cast of 11, lighthearted comedy doesn’t become fluff or cheapen character. Even one that would be easy to ridicule—Joe’s excitable new fiancée, troop entertainer Daphne (a perpetually charming Margot White)—is painted brightly. It turns out that Gellhorn and Cowles were as perceptively egalitarian in playwriting as in journalism.—Diane Snyder