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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Groucho: A Life In Review

Groucho: A Life In Review
By Arthur Marx and Robert Fischer
Directed by Lourelene Snedeker and Chris Leavy
Starring Roy Alan
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

The Marx Brothers conclusively proved you don’t need a plot to do comedy, but if you do have one, keep it down. Tonight’s first person account of the Marx Brothers career comes from the viewpoint of fiscally conservative (i.e. tight wad) Groucho (Alan). We follow the 5 brothers as they travel from immigrants too poor to be Jewish to the comedy giants of vaudeville, film, and television. Groucho’s foil is Live-For-The-Moment Chico (Alan Gallant) and his penchant for women and horses. While Chico couldn’t hold a dime, he had a knack for getting work when times were tough. Whether they were abandoned in Natchitoches, Texas or out of work after a botched movie, there was some Gentile Luck in his blood.

I was pleasantly surprised by Alan’s depiction of Groucho, his greasepaint eyebrows and hot melt glued on wig drew you in to the world of a classically unhappy comic with a great sense of humor. Versatile Laura Hodos plays all 20 female roles, from assorted Chico flings to interviewers and most the most important woman in Groucho’s career, Margaret Dumont’s Madam Rittenhouse, his perennial straight woman. Gallant’s Chico didn’t always have the earthy ethnicity of the original, but got his jokes to work on a regular basis. The third Marx brother on tonight’s stage, Harpo, was played by Jeffery Cark. While the original Harpo could be tiring, Mr. Clark’s Harpo cried out for you to run up and hug him, fright wig and klaxon horn included.

Scenes and songs from the brother’s skits and films fill the show, and the laughter is nearly continuous. While Groucho isn’t exactly lovable, he’s believable and sympathetic. His love life was strained, his finances a constant worry, and his brushes with anti-Semitism only seemed to fire his desire to make the world laugh. Today’s parents might not even recall this pillar of comedy, but “A Life in Review” ought to get you to take a look at these classic films, right after you enjoy a night of classic Roy Alan.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org