BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Say Goodnight, Gracie: The Love, Laughter and Life of George Burns
In Frank Gorshin, the show is also blessed with a narrator who's the next best thing to having Burns actually come back for a visit from the Great Beyond that's been his home since 1996. Of course, if you look closely, even with Burns' trademark glasses and ever present cigar, Frank Gorshin really doesn't look like Burns, but skilled impersonator that he is, he has so precisely nailed the persona --the shuffling walk and facial gestures, and most important, the impeccable timing -- that when the curtain comes down you're not sure whether you're applauding Gorshin or Burns.
Burns was a very funny man, but his wife Gracie Allen, who started out as his straight man turned out to be even funnier so that Burns smartly cast himself as the one to feed the lines to her. And while it's Burns, a.k.a. Gorshin, who's center stage, it's still Gracie with her "illogical logic" who has the audience laughing most often and loudest.
Director John Tillinger has dressed up Holmes' material (familiar even to younger audience members via Burns' very public last years playing God in the movies and publishing books and CDs) with bits and pieces from Burns and Allen's radio shows (Didi Conn as the voice of Gracie) and clips from their equally successful TV and film careers. But, because Burns was so successful at making Gracie the star of the joint enterprise that survived no matter what new medium became fashionable, Say Goodnight Gracie without Gracie is like a day at the beach without quite enough sunshine. Still, this is an endearing ode -- to Gracie and to life fully lived even when you're in your nineties.
While the 90-minute play takes us through the entire 100 years of Burns 's life, Gorshin plays him as an old man throughout, leaving it to the film clips to let us see what he looked like in his younger days. Playwright Holmes jumpstarts the classic rags to riches story by having Burns emerge from a cloud to make a case for being allowed to join Gracie in Heaven. His apology for possibly displeasing the Heavenly Maker with his three famous movie portrayals of God, is the lead-in to the joke-interspersed journey from the Lower East Side, to vaudeville, to radio, television and Hollywood. The design elements, especially the lighting and projections, help to create a play-like aura for these reminiscences.
George and Gracie were household words from 1932 to 1958 and some of Gracies's sayings like "I bet you say that to all the girls" becoming part of the American idiom. The story would be more interesting with a bit more insight into the working process that built their legend. The humor is hardly timeless. In fact, it's the utter predictability of it that makes you laugh. But be that as it may, this isn't about George Burns the comedian but a quite heart-warming tribute to life, laughter and love.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.