Clayton Corzatte Directs Endangered Species Project: THE SHOW-OFF
George Kelly's name should be as familiar to Americans as Mark Twain or James Thurber - or Neil Simon, for that matter. He wrote this devastatingly funny portrayal of family life in 1924; though, apart from the fact that the characters have to go next door to use the telephone, you'd scarcely know it.
The title figure, Aubrey Piper, is the kind of braggart ne'er-do-well who, with slight variations, still shows up at Thanksgiving family dinners all across the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, and Guam, and Puerto Rico. Aubrey has one genuine talent: tooting his own horn at every opportunity. Fortunately, Kelly set him tooting in an idiosyncratic family band that serves only to increase the general hilarity.
But like previous ESP reading selections, such as Hobson's Choice, Getting Married, and They Knew What They Wanted, the laughs deepen as the play moves forward, and Kelly's greater game plays out in a surprising conclusion.
As critic George Nathan pointed out in his preface to the published text, Kelly refuses to compromise his central character. Aubrey is always incorrigibly himself - it is the events of the play that change how we, and his family, see him. The Show-Off is both a groundbreaking character study and an uproarious limning of an American family, seen through flashes of tragedy and the forgiving, steady eye of one of our most brilliant dramatists. (Plus, though it's neither here nor there, the author was Grace Kelly's uncle.)
The play has been filmed several times - in a silent 1926 version which featured Louise Brooks as Aubrey's girlfriend Clara; a 1934 talkie with Spencer Tracy as Aubrey; and Red Skelton had a swing at the title role, in a much altered version of the play, in 1946. There was also a live television production in the '50s that featured Jackie Gleason, now apparently lost.
The play was last seen in Seattle at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1977, with Clayton Corzatte (pictured) as Aubrey. Mr. Corzatte directs this time, with Larry Paulsen as Aubrey, joined by Mark Anders, Susan Corzatte, David Gehrman, Tim Gouran, Amy Love, Jeanne Paulsen and Clark Sandford.
Coming in December:
TRELAWNY OF THE WELLS
directed by Larry Paulsen
presented at Taproot Theatre!
THIS MONTH'S VENUE: The Bathhouse Theatre
This month we return to one of our favorite homes, The Bathhouse Theatre at Greenlake, as the guest of Seattle Public Theatre. 7312 West Greenlake Drive; doors open at 6:30 for a 7:00pm curtain.
Seattle Public Theatre Website
What is the Endangered Species Project?
ESP is a loose confederation of Seattle theatre artists. We are dedicated to giving monthly readings of plays that seldom get full productions. In the present economic straits in which regional theatre now finds itself, much of the so-called established international repertoire is neglected, for various reasons: there are too many different settings, or the casts are too large, or, simply, the publicity requirements of selling a play that is both "old" and unfamiliar to general audiences may seem too daunting.
We feel that while it is an essential duty of theatres to read and develop new work, our group sees a parallel need to celebrate older or otherwise neglected plays as well. Readings of this kind give us a chance to recharge our underemployed artistic selves, of course, but also to explore the genius of playwrights such as Maxwell Anderson, George Abbott, and Harold Brighouse, to name three of our favorites. For example, our reading of Hobson's Choice was a revelation to the actors as well as the audience: those of us who were only familiar with the 1953 movie were gobsmacked with the serious examination of life changes underlying what is too often taken to be a quaint little comedy - not that there is anything wrong with a comedy, quaint or little; but we learned a good deal by performing and hearing the play, in addition to having a rollicking good time!