Deep Dish Theatre Company will present Holiday, a vintage romantic comedy written by legendary American playwright Philip Barry (1896-1949) and guest-directed for Deep Dish by Tony Lea, April 22-May 15 in the company’s theater space behind Branching Out at the Dillard’s end of University Mall in Chapel Hill, NC. Barry also penned The Philadelphia Story (1939).

Holiday made its Broadway debut on Nov. 26, 1928 at the Plymouth Theatre, and ran for 229 performances. Its most famous motion-picture version, directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, debuted in 1938.

“When [Deep Dish artistic director Paul Frellick] approached me about directing the show,” says Tony Lea, “I was unfamiliar with it. At first read, I loved it; but, amazingly, it continues to open for us as petals on a rose; each additional encounter reveals new layers of depth and sensitivity. It addresses the timeless themes of love, independence, integrity, and the worth of one’s existence. Set in pre-Depression New York, it examines a man in conflict with the pressures of society and the women who love him.”

Lea adds, “I wanted to direct Holiday because it explores themes that resonate for me. The characters are fully realized, the conflicts are completely identifiable in our modern society, and the language is poetic and beautifully written, yet absolutely real.

“The story begins with Johnny Case [John Allore], an engaging young man with some interesting ideas about life,” Lea explains. “At Lake Placid, he met Julia Seton [Tracey Phillips], fell in love, and proposed to her. Coming to New York City to meet her family, he arrives at their mansion and is shocked to learn that his beloved is one of the Setons (read Rockefeller or Getty).”

Lea says, “Julia’s father [Scotty Cherryholmes] is not sure what to think of his daughter’s intended, but Julia’s rather unconventional sister, Linda [Katja Hill], thinks Johnny is wonderful. The problem is that Johnny’s big plan is to make his fortune when he is young and then retire (i.e., go on a ‘holiday’), returning to work again when he gets older, which is heresy to Julia’s father, Edward ‘Big Business’ Seton.

“Helping to balance the odds for Johnny are his friends, Nick and Susan Potter [Kevin Ferguson and Collette Rutherford], charter (and, perhaps, only) members of his fan club. Linda tries to keep Johnny and Julia together,” Lea notes, “but it seems she is the only one in the Seton household who appreciates Johnny on his own terms; she finds herself irresistibly drawn to him.”

Lea says, “There’s more going on here than a spiffy, surface romance, with Johnny’s free-spirit determination going up against rock-hard establishment values. Also on hand are Julia and Linda’s alcoholic brother Ned [David Berberian], their snooty cousin Seton Cram and his wife Laura [Tim Cole and Katie Flaherty], and their faithful servant, Henry [Jim Roman].”

Besides Tony Lea, who previously guest-directed A Game of Love and Chance, an 18th French romantic comedy by Pierre Marivaux (1688-1763), for Deep Dish from Nov. 2 to 23, 2002, the Holiday production team includes set designer Rob Hamilton, lighting designer Elizabeth Grimes-Droessler, sound/music designer Al Singer, costume designer Judy Chang, and choreographer Joy Javits.

“This production has posed a major challenge,” says Tony Lea, “by requiring two separate unit sets in Deep Dish’s tight space, each of which represent a room in the large Seton house. Rob Hamilton has created a set with a remarkable solution to this challenge.”

Lea adds, “Holiday is one of the great romantic comedies. Bring a loved one.”

Deep Dish Theater Company presents Holiday Thursday-Saturday, April 22-24, April, 29-May 1, and May 6-8 and 13-15, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 25 and May 2 and 9, at 3 p.m.; and Wednesday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the space behind Branching Out at the Dillard’s end of University Mall, at the intersection of Estes Drive and U.S. 15-501, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $14 ($10 students and $12 seniors), except pay-what-you-can matinee April 25. 919/968-1515. Note 1: Deep Dish’s storefront theater is located in the area behind Branching Out, which is located between Cameron’s and The Print Shop. Enter through Branching Out. Note 2: There will be a post-play discussion following the show’s May 2 performance. Note 3: Dr. Evelyn Daniel, who teaches, researches, and coordinates the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School Library Program and student fieldwork, will lead the Deep Dish Book Club discussion of Flappers and Philosophers (Project Gutenberg E-book):, a 1920 collection of short stories by celebrated American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), at 7 p.m. May 13 in Tyndall Galleries in University Mall. Deep Dish Theater Company: Internet Broadway Database (1928-29 Broadway Production): Internet Movie Database (1938 Film):