Reviewed by Paula Citron
Written by William Luce
Directed by Gene Saks
Performed by Christopher Plummer and John Plumpis
Jan. 31 to Mar. 9, 2011
I certainly remember enjoying William Luce’s play Barrymore at Stratford in 1996, but since time dims memory, I’d forgotten just how witty the play is. Senior citizen Christopher Plummer’s performance is breath-taking.
Barrymore is not just a tour-de-force vehicle for a great actor. Rather, it makes a great actor look even greater because the clever material runs from down right lol to tenderly poignant, and every emotion in between.
The play, and Plummer, brilliantly capture the dichotomy that was John Barrymore – on stage, a gifted classical actor, off stage, a vulgar, crass, alcoholic purveyor of hilarious, if scatological, one-liners.
We meet Barrymore as he is rehearsing for his one-man comeback show in 1942, aided by his hapless, behind the scenes prompter, Frank, played by John Plumpis, whom we don’t actually see until the curtain call.
In short, Plummer and Barrymore, aided by the wonderfully detailed direction of Gene Saks, is a definite don’t miss.
Barrymore continues at the Elgin Theatre until Mar. 9.