Say Goodnight, Gracie
At the end of the night, amidst echoes of laughter, it is difficult to leave the Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Milwaukee premiere of Say Goodnight, Gracie. Yet there is plenty to consider afterwards in this 1978 script by Ralph Pape, whom in 2007 the Dramatist’s Guild of America selected as one of the country’s top 50 playwrights to watch.
Five new and emerging actors carry this 90-minute, no-intermission evening, which conveys the Boulevard’s mission: to help young talent perfect their professional craft. Under the direction of Jon Beideschies, they create an exuberant energy and chemistry on the stage that brings both laughter and pathos to the production.
The group shares their surprising hopes, dreams and expectations as they discuss growing up during television’s “Golden Age” with Milton Berle and Groucho Marx. Tom Dillon’s Steve adeptly crafts his character with comic delight, while the women give capable performances. Tamsett leaves us wanting for more depth with his distressed Jerry, but it is Jason Will as Bobby who really brings the smoke; his lines are some of the most poignant, and they soften the laughter.
“Everything cycles,” he says. “Like the three cycles on a washing machine … birth, life, and death … Everything comes around again so it doesn’t matter. Fifties, sixties, or seventies – it’s all the same.”
As this disenchanted quintet discusses the Rolling Stone’s Mic Jagger – already an “old fart” in ’78 – and asks questions about going nowhere, the joy of being alive and the fear of the unknown, the play echoes with relevance more than a pure comedy could. Their realization that television and movies preserve the past, and that time passes quickly while the world changes, creates the wonder that perhaps tears are more appropriate than smiles when the lights go out at the end of Say Goodnight, Gracie. Tickets should sell out quickly at the Boulevard Theatre during this enjoyable production’s run before the last performance on February 3. VS