Say Goodnight Gracie | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Say Goodnight Gracie

by

comment

Vaudeville song-and-dance man Nathan Birnbaum, better remembered today as George Burns, teamed up with Irish comedienne Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen in 1923. Together they forged one of showbiz's greatest stage, radio, and TV acts--and one of its longest marriages, from 1926 until Allen's death in 1964. Playing straight man to the wacky Allen, Burns developed one of comedy's most indelible personas. And veteran impressionist Frank Gorshin captures the man perfectly in Say Goodnight Gracie, presented by Centre East in a one-week engagement following the show's 11-month Broadway run. In this solo turn, scripted by Rupert Holmes and directed by John Tillinger, Gorshin doesn't merely re-create Burns's trademark behavior--the bemused smile, the thoughtful stroking of an ever-present cigar. He also evokes Burns's essence: ironic, laconic, introspective, drolly detached yet sympathetic in his attempts to logically analyze human illogic. The classic routines are here--Burns's banter with his seemingly dizzy bride (represented by a recording), stories about best friend Jack Benny, even a little soft shoe--along with reminiscences of the Lower East Side and his deep love for Gracie, enhanced by projections of historical photos. Reclaiming Burns from the cute codgerdom of his later years, Gorshin offers a man whose combination of shrewd worldly wisdom and understated good taste reminds us that comedy doesn't have to be crude to be funny. North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300. Opens Tuesday, March 2, 7:30 PM. Through March 7: Wednesday-Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 5 and 8 PM; Sunday, 1 and 5 PM. $42-$48.

Add a comment