Even at the Mint Theater, where rescuing forgotten plays is a routine as regular as breathing, rediscoveries rarely have the piquant charm of Love Goes to Press. First produced in 1946 at London’s Embassy Theatre—itself an off–West End venue, in the eccentrically named Swiss Cottage neighborhood, which specialized in discovering oddball works—this romantic comedy won enough Londoners’ approval for two novice producers to risk it on Broadway, where it opened on New Year’s Day 1947, to chilly reviews, and flopped ignominiously five days later. Epiphany’s three kings brought no presents to its American co-authors, the noted female war correspondents Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles.
Thanks to their war experiences, though, both ladies were probably used to having it tough (especially Gellhorn, who had also briefly been famous as the third Mrs. Ernest Hemingway). Tinged teasingly with autobiography, their play merges two stock genres—newsroom comedy à la The Front Page and barracks-room shenanigans à la What Price Glory?—to narrate the adventures of two female newshounds in a man-heavy outpost on the Italian front toward war’s end.
An American detachment is trapped on a nearby mountain slope; Jane (Angela Pierce) has contrived to sneak up with the Red Cross, to be with our boys when the rescuers arrive. Annabelle (Heidi Armbruster) has to busy herself with a different rescue—detaching her ultra-competitive colleague and ex-husband (Rob Breckenridge) from the clutches of a warbly British ingenue (Margot White) whose plan to build a career on entertaining the troops requires maximum press coverage.
Thanks to the traditional Army confusion, both plans go comically awry. Annabelle gets rid of her rival but doesn’t quite get her man, while Jane nearly falls for but doesn’t end up with the stuffy English officer (Bradford Cover) running the press camp. (The comic high point is their scene of lovemaking under Nazi shell fire.) Director Jerry Ruiz deploys his acting troops with skillful briskness; Pierce and Armbruster both mix class with sass appealingly (if perhaps a little too similarly). In the generally solid supporting cast, a particular standout is Jay Patterson’s comically crusty turn as a cynical American correspondent whose gift for slacking off knows no bounds. Was this really so unfunny on New Year’s Day 1947? Probably the reviewers were just hung over—or else grumpy at having to work on a holiday. Today the show feels like one.