George and Grace: Part 2 – Review by Marlene S. Gaylinn

The legendary George Burns and Gracie Allen are coming alive again at Seven Angels Theatre as Artistic Director, Semina De Laurentis, and R. Bruce Connelly, both Connecticut Critics Circle award winners, are reviving their roles in a second chapter of “George and Gracie Part II.”

For those too young to recognize Burns and Allen, they were a very popular, husband and wife comedy team who had a regular, one-half hour radio series before they went on TV during the 1950’s. He was the straight man and she was his ditzy, wife. However, the couple had perfect timing. The cigar Burns always held in his hand allowed him to pause just before the punch lines, and no matter how silly the jokes were, they always got a laugh. Gracie died in 1964 and George made a come back during the 1970’s in the films “The Sunshine Boys,” “Oh God,” and “Oh God You Devil.” Burns remained active until he died at age 100.

At Seven Angels, Julia Kiley directs a fine cast that includes the couple’s next door neighbors, Sarah Knapp as “Blanch,” and John Swanson as her husband, “John.” Tom Chute is “Harry Von Zell,” George and Gracie’s TV announcer. Ben McCormack doubles as the genuine, Vaudeville Pianist. Josh Powell, Anna Laura Strider, Ben McCormack and Reid Sinclair complete the hilarious teamwork. Each actor plays multiple roles, which make the cast seem even larger.

Without giving too much away, the subject of this particular Burns and Allen episode, as conceived by De Laurentis, could be called, “Who’s the Crazy One?” It begins with Blanch’s complaint that she’s not sleeping well at night. So, Gracie decides to be helpful to her neighbor by beating her to the psychiatrist’s office. Her object is to prepare Blanch for her “exam” by asking the good doctor for his “test” questions in advance. The doctor mistakenly thinks that Gracie is his patient. From there on, the play’s many characters get as mixed-up as Waterbury’s “Mix-Master” (a complicated, major highway bridge) while the audience wonders who the craziest character is.

In the meantime, Burns keeps his cool while questioning Gracie’s illogical motives, and her even more ridiculous answers. He jokingly addresses the audience as he introduces the scenes and characteristically ends the episode with his famous sign-off, “Say Goodnight Gracie.”

Folks who remember the real Burns and Allen will agree that De Laurentis and Connelly make a cute, fun-loving couple as they give a realistic interpretation of these once-famous comedians. This new production is a highly entertaining, nostalgic glimpse of a more innocent time-period — the likes of which is seldom seen anymore.

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