Barrymore By William Luce
Directed by Jerry James
Starring David Aston-Reese
Sleuths Mystery Dinner Theatre
It’s unusual to take that long drive down to the tourist district to catch some innovative theater, but Sleuths’ making a stretch to expand its repertoire makes the trip worthwhile. The “It’s No Mystery” series dispenses with the food, making your skill at selecting a decent restaurant part of the fun. I missed the first few of these food free, high art content shows, but this one and a half man show indicates a few goodies went under my radar.
John Barrymore found fame on stage and screen as an actor and leading alcoholic of my parent’s generation. His dissolutions and larger than life character that makes for a good one man show, and the small crowd and distant location made Aston Reese’s performance even more poignant. Tonight Barrymore (Aston Reese) rented a theater with the intention of making a comeback by performing a one man Richard the Third. He’s down on his luck, and it’s not clear how he’s covering the 20 other roles, but we’ll cut him some slack. As his rehearsal proceeds, his prompter Franklin (Jeff Lindberg) throws out lines, advice and the sort of chastisement that can only be delivered by a true fan. In turn, Barrymore philosophizes, strains a Manhattan with his fingers, and makes it clear that not only hasn’t he got his lines down, he may not even be sure who Richard is.
“Barrymore” is a tragedy just as surely as “Richard III” was. Both had skill and potential, yet fell into the abyss. Barrymore’s involved of alcohol and the abuse of a handful of wives, and nearly got him on Star Trek. But even on the way down, Barrymore is more the sort of guy you’d go out drinking with, fully expecting to wind up in Tijuana two weeks later with no clear idea of where your passport went. Aston-Reese seems nearly as large when greeting audience post show, and I suspect a real role as the hunchback king would play just as well as his version of the dipsomaniac Barrymore.
For more information on Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Shows, please visit http://www.sleuths.com