We have been treated to the likes of the Marx Brothers before.
“Cocoanuts,” “Animal Crackers” and “A Day in
Hollywood” have all graced Milwaukee stages in recent years.
However, the Next Act Theatre’s present production of
“Groucho: A Life in Revue” is a bit different in its
flavor. Though it
does showcase the comedy so characteristic of this inimitable
group - slapstick, puns, insults, mugging - it has a nostalgic
ambience. We find ourselves amused but also moved by some of
the stories it highlights.
the fact that this show was written by Groucho’s son Arthur
in collaboration with Robert Fisher, a friend who also knew
Groucho intimately, accounts for its very personal and human
touch. Whatever it is, it is a very satisfying retrospective
look at three brothers who entertained us for half a century
and made their lasting mark on American comedy.
Groucho Marx back to life is a role that Norman Moses has
mastered over the years. He even looks like him. His musical
abilities are also a good match. Groucho is the narrator of
this biographical show. He traces the early history of the
family and its involvement in show biz and also humanizes his
brothers with personal tidbits about their lives off stage.
references to his own three failed marriages and some of his
personal regrets also humanize him. The last scene when he is
interviewed at 87 shortly before he died is very touching.
Despite the many changes in the ups and downs of their
careers, they remained grounded as brothers. Sadly for Groucho,
the oldest, Chico, and Harpo both died more than a decade
before him. Like many comedians, there is often a sense of
tragedy behind their comic facades.
sibling compatriots Chico and Harpo are also delightfully
represented by David Cecsarini and Chris Klopatek,
respectively, a welcome sight after several years in absentia
from the Milwaukee theater scene.
versatile Cecsarini has captured Chico’s mannerisms
perfectly, and Klopatek’s Harpo is absolutely lovable.
Chico’s interactions with Jack Forbes Wilson at the piano
and Harpo’s ballet with the living harp are both
unforgettable. The fifth and sixth contributors to this
playful entourage are Alexandra Bonesho and Chase Stoeger,
both of whom play many roles. Bonesho is especially versatile
in representing some of the important women in Groucho’s
Rasmussen’s scenic design is fairly simplistic but very
functional for smooth changes over a long span of time.
Costume designer Lyndsey Kuhlmann made some wonderful choices
for the re-incarnation of this inimitable group and some of
the women who entered their lives. With her extensive
involvement with the Marx Brothers’ style and their many
hits, Pam Kriger did an impressive job of resurrecting these
crowd on opening night attests to the interest in this revue,
as well as an appreciation for the dependable quality of
theater provided at Next Act. And there’s also plentiful
free parking, always a bonus.
- a Revue” runs through Dec. 8 at Next Act Theatre, 225 S.
Water St., Milwaukee. For show times and tickets, call
414-278-7780 or visit www.nextact.org.