A One-Man Groucho
During the premier performance at the newly renovated Community Theatre in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, on March 7, Ron MacClosky as Groucho Marx goes through his side-slapping routine recalling Groucho’s desire to create a one-man show.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Pine Buff, Arkansas
Here in L.A. (lower Arkansas), attending a live professional theatrical presentation in a real live theater is not what one would call a common occurrence — that is, until now. Pine Bluff residents Jack Stradley and his wife, Kathy Majewska, hatched up an idea and then took on the daunting task of renovating a theater — a venerable venue that showed its first film in 1922 — so they could present a series of variety entertainment live on stage.
Glow of the Footlights
Ron MacClosky on stage in his opening routine in the newly renovated Community Theatre. The footlights, while adding a nice visual touch, have a more utilitarian purpose. The lights let the performer know where the stage ends, preventing accidental downward departures and sudden stops by participating thespians.
The building actually first opened its doors in the mid-1800s as an S.H. Kress & Co. five-and-dime store. Jack and Kathy's idea was to restore the old building, AKA The Community Theater (now Theatre), as much as possible, with an eye toward recapturing its 1922 ambiance while adding state-of-the-art sound and light systems along with other creature comforts not available in the early 20s. They have succeeded. There are a few tweaks remaining, but they are minor — certainly not enough to stop the premier performances on March 7 and 8.
The Professor of Laughs
Groucho in his professorial role pulls belt-fed laughs from the Pine Bluff audience during this section of the show.
The first act featured Ron MacClosky, regarded by many as the best Groucho Marx impersonator on the planet. Mr. MacClosky lived up to his reputation. My friend Doug Smith of Pine Bluff summed it up best in a Facebook post: “Memories flooded back as Groucho's fast paced patter once again gave life to the famous phrases, sight gags, and slightly colorful double entendre jokes, and sly puns popular in Groucho's stage shows of the times.”
Hooray for Captain Spaulding!
Groucho dons his pith helmet as he starts the Animal Crackers routine. My good friend and Fort Smith Senior High School classmate, Eddy Jeter, remembers taking his daughter to see the movie. “When my elder daughter Shannon was about 8, I took her to the movie Animal Crackers and she laughed her head off,” Eddy said. That would have been in the 60s. At that time the movie was more than 30 years old and still pulled laughs, attesting to the genuine and enduring humor of the Marx Brothers.
'You are going Uruguay, and I'm going my way.'
Groucho cavorts across the stage as the audience reacts with boisterous laughter.
The final act was a re-creation of Groucho’s long-running quiz show, You Bet Your Life. Theater staff passed out cards to be filled out with a bit of personal information by members of the audience. MacClosky used these cards to recognize audience members and engage them in lively and rollicking conversations. This extemporaneous exchange proved that MacClosky is no less quick on his feet as Groucho was himself. Whether the straight line came from the card or from the person, MacClosky fired back his rejoinder quicker than the wink of an eye. The audience roared with laughter.
'Say the Secret Woid'
After bantering with the audience for a few minutes during the You Bet Your Life routine, Groucho brings two quiz show participants on stage and the side splitting exchange begins — every bit as funny as the original show, according to those with enough birthdays remember it. Including yours truly.
If laughter is good for the soul, attendees at the Ron MacClosky as Groucho performance left with gorged souls. And now L.A. has another braggin’ point. All because two people, Jack and Kathy, thought waaaaaaay outside the box and followed through. Life is good here in L.A.
There's More at the Gallery!
See picture galleries of the show. Kindly click and go.
Groucho gallery 1
Groucho Gallery 2
Groucho with book: Nikon D7100, 6400 ISO, AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 ED D, 1/500 @ 5.3; Groucho on stage, same camera, ISO 2000, AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 ED G, 1/200 @ f3.5; Groucho as professor, same camera, same lens, ISO 2000, 1/160 @ f5.6; Groucho with helmet 1, same camera, lens and ISO, 1/100 @ f 5; Groucho with helmet 2, same camera, lens and ISO, 1/160 @ f 5.
But wait there's more!
We continue with pictures
and information on Groucho
and the Community Theatre at
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.
Click and go see mo’! It’s good for the soul.