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Apple Corps brings back 1940 comedy

George Washington Slept Here Comedy by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Directed by John Raymond. ``George Washington Slept Here'' proves its comic durability in the quirky revival at the Apple Corps Theatre. Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's 1940 antic about a Manhattan innocent's misadventures as the unwary purchaser of a dilapidated Pennsylvania farmhouse was comparatively less successful than their previous triumphs, ``The Man Who Came to Dinner'' and ``You Can't Take It with You.'' It ran, however, for 173 performances on Broadway, was made into a movie starring Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan, and has proved popular with stock companies.

The farcical comedy receives its first return New York engagement at the hands of an interracial cast engagingly headed by Michael Tolan. Mr. Tolan plays Newton Fuller, the all too gullible New Yorker who finds that there is more than history to the ramshackle domicile where George Washington reputedly spent the night. (Actually, it was Benedict Arnold who slept there.) Mr. Tolan gives a suitably eager-beaver performance as the dauntless neophyte prepared to face everything from his wife's (Maria Cellario) acidulous disparagements to the train of disasters Hart and Kaufman have prepared for him. (The playwrights were Pennsylvania homesteaders.)

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As the estate's handyman-contractor, Arthur French bears his bad tidings with amusingly laconic understatement. Sherman Lloyd is contrastingly expansive as the visiting rich uncle who proves to Newton that there is more than one way of meeting a mortgage.

Although the overall performance tends to be uneven, director John Raymond has kept faith with his authors with a production in which the confrontations between city innocents and country slickers is as good for laughs today as it was 48 years ago.

With the aid of a hardworking stage crew, set designer Alex Polner takes the Fuller premises through their required transformations. The revival, scheduled to run through Sunday, was lighted (with occasional summer storm effects) by William J. Plachy and costumed by MaryAnn D. Smith. ``George Washington Slept Here'' is, incidentally, the nine-year-old Apple Corps's 50th production.

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