|R. Bruce Connelly. Photo: Paul Roth|
By Lauren Yarger
Connecticut acting gem R. Bruce Connelly transforms himself into George Burns for 90 minutes of reflection about the comedian's life in Rupert Holmes' Say Goodnight, Gracie at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury.
The one-man show recalls Burns' many unsuccessful attempts to come up with a winning act in vaudeville and show business until he meets the love of his life, Gracie Allen. Realizing that Allen's acting abilities, natural timing and flair for comedy bring laughs, Burns trades his usual punch-line-delivering role for straight man to set up her dizzy-sounding punch lines and comedy history is born.
The play is as much a love letter from Burns to his comedy partner and wife and a tribute to his friendship with comedian Jack Benny as it is a memoir of his career, which spanned 90 years until he turned 100.
Connelly holds attention throughout the presentation and brings the comedy legend to life without trying to do an impersonation. Dressed in a brown suit, sporting a wig and glasses and holding the trademark cigar, he becomes Burns the man rather than a caricature of him (Jimmy Johansmeyer, costume design).
He moves from a table at one side of the stage to a comfortable chair at the other using minimal props (Erik D. Diaz and Daniel Husvar, scenic and prop design) in a staging that depicts the comedian justifying his life before God. The presentation, directed by Semina DeLaurentis, includes some video and audio clips and photo stills of the comedy team.
It's a fascinating trip down memory lane and a fun way to experience the "illogical logic" of the humor that made Burns & Allen one of the most successful comedy teams in history.
Say Goodnight, Gracie plays through March 10 at Seven Angels, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury. Tickets: 203-757-4676; https://www.choicesecure03.net/mainapp/eventschedule.aspx?Clientid=SevenAngels.