After all of the Broadway shows we had been to, Melissa had mentioned that she wanted to get back to seeing local productions at the smaller venues. I had seen Steve Guttenberg on WPIX one morning talking about his play – Tales from the Guttenberg Bible – performed at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
I always liked Steve Guttenberg as an actor, it was always something about him that made me laugh. From the very first time I saw him and his reactions in the movie Diner. But what convinced me to see his show, was the subject matter, and what he described about his relationship with his father, who had recently passed.
The George Street Playhouse is not on George Street anymore, it’s actually on Livingston Avenue in the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, next to the State Theatre. The Center is made up of multiple individual small theaters and the seating capacity is listed at 375 people.
Melissa and I went to the Thursday evening performance. Now I have been to many small local productions, Off-Broadway shows, and even Off-Off Broadway shows – one where the only bathroom was actually at the back of the stage – and I have never seen where a theater is so empty. Ten minutes to 8:00 p.m. scheduled show time and there were maybe two dozen people in the seats. Finally, a crowd of people – with name tags – meandered in and made it to their seats.
When Guttenberg emerged from backstage, there was not a sound…until Melissa clapped her hands and then a few others joined in. It was so weird.
I don’t want to give anything away, but I WILL say that the story is about Guttenberg leaving home as a teenager, searching for fame in Tinseltown, and what he went through along the way. It’s HIS story…and told by HIM.
As a writer, the biggest compliment I can get is when someone, especially someone who knows me, tells me that when they read my writing, they can actually HEAR ME telling the story. I have always believed that you lose the audience when you start using words, and phrases, just for literary purposes to show how intelligent and deep you are. You can be articulate without sounding like a thesaurus.
I have seen small and one-person performances before and, even as a performer who did some stand-up, it is tough to carry yourself out there. Steve Guttenberg’s performance was like hanging out with him and talking to him about past lives. He seemed natural, like he was simply having a conversation with each of us. I felt like he was engaging with me, Alan, and just telling me what happened along the way. He kept me interested, and kept me wanting to hear more.
It was interesting to hear the inside stories about the movies Diner, Police Academy, Cocoon, and Three Men and a Baby – all classics. Oh…and I can’t forget about the story about his mom’s gynecology appointment. I just can’t. LOL
The three co-stars – Arnie Burton, Dan Domingues, and Carine Montbertrand – were absolutely phenomenal in their multiple roles that they each had to play during the course of the show, each exhibiting versatility and exceptional humor that played right along with Guttenberg. I have to single out Burton’s portrayal of Merv Griffin…I was cackling for a few moments afterwards because he was so spot on.
They all deserved to have a full house enjoying their performances.
Guttenberg wrote the play over a five-year period. And he talks about that. And he talks about his relationship with his dad…and the advice that his father gave him and that he still thinks about every day.
My advice…if you can…see this show. It’s honest, it’s real, and it’s personal.
And, ON a personal note, Steve…it’s fresh for you. They tell you it gets easier. It doesn’t. You just learn to handle it differently. Take it from me. It’s been 42 years. It’s not any easier…just different.