FREDONIA - There is classic theater on the stage of SUNY Fredonia's Marvel Theater, as the university's Department of Theater and Dance presents ''Stage Door,'' by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman.
The play is in a style of theater which was popular in the 1930s, when plays began much later in the evening than they do now, and lasted for three full acts. And yet, it is a story as contemporary as today.
The setting is in a boarding house for young actresses in New York City. Called The Footlights Club, the house is run by a former glory of the living stage, and rents shared rooms with meals for $12.50 per night, but only to young women who are performing or trying to perform in the theater.
The cast is positively huge, by contemporary standards. There are 32 actors, mostly women, who perform, not including the charming dog who classes up the place.
A full round of cheers is due to scenic designer Theresa Pierce and costume designer Anna Slocum. They had to dress all those people, and do it in the styles of 1936, when the play is set. Also, each actor would dash in and announce that she had to dress for her date for the evening, or she needed to dress as a particular kind of woman in hopes of getting a part for which she was auditioning, so each character needed multiple costumes.
The set is classy, perfectly in the period, and is wonderfully working, giving a sense of the atmosphere in the house, with people coming and going, listening in on each other's conversations, etc. Director James Ivey managed to move that constant tidal wave of people on and off the stage for the full 150 minutes of the production, with each character clearly defined and perfect timing to encounter a friend on the stage, and the like.
The central plot concerns two of the young residents of the house. Terry Randall is played charmingly by Madison Osgood. Even her rivals in the house admit, she is a wonderfully talented actress.. Her family is poor but honest, so she has to sell blouses and accept jobs reading recipes on the radio to pay her rent.
Jean Maitland, played with energy and gusto by Kathleen Grace Fiori, is Terry's friend. The grapevine tells us that she isn't as talented as Terry, but she is considerably more ambitious, and as the play progresses, she abandons the theater to become a film star.
Each woman interacts with other actors and with producers and playwrights. All of them have to decide whether to continue to strive in the artistry of theater, or to sell out - playwright Ferber clearly spells out that going to Hollywood for the money is selling out, in her opinion - and doing what's more popular, if less artistic and far less important.
The production is a feast for the eyes and ears. The young Fredonia actors speak beautifully, maintain character perfectly, move with energy and excitement, and they create not just a few events, but an endless cascade of events. Anyone who has fought for quality against expediency will find the play thrilling.
''Stage Door'' continues through April 28.