Hollywood Arms | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Hollywood Arms, Goodman Theatre. Dysfunctional families are a dime a dozen, so the stories they spawn stand or fall by their texture, drama, or recognizability. Given the last criterion, you'd think this adaptation of Carol Burnett's memoir One More Time by Burnett and her late daughter, Carrie Hamilton, with its seedy LA setting and celebrity pedigree, couldn't fail to connect. However, perhaps as a result of too many drafts, the story's specificity has been effaced, and we're left with a sanitized, languorous star-is-born story, schematically delineated and predictable, offering little insight or telling detail.

Though Harold Prince's staging is often visually breathtaking, he must share some of the blame--as an editor, he had a hand in overpolishing the script. Much has been sacrificed to efficient staging and misguided distance; lacking sufficient context or buildup, this watchable but static show's crucial emotional moments feel abrupt and unearned. The program tells us we're in 40s and 50s Hollywood watching Burnett surrogate Helen grow up and begin her career, but otherwise this could be any tale of success in the face of poverty, parental alcoholism, etc.

Walt Spangler's set, as lit by Howell Binkley, achieves a number of gorgeous effects. Linda Lavin, the de facto star, does engaging work as Helen's tough-but-tender grandmother, and as mom Louise, the excellent Michele Pawk is a one-woman through line. Frank Wood is strong and believable as errant father Jody, and everyone else is perfectly adequate, but...

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