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Theatre Preview Print

Preview: Barrymore (Theatre in the Park)

September 25, 2002 - Raleigh, NC:


Still playing is:

Barrymore (Theatre in the Park, Sept. 13-29) is a must see-show. This ribald biographical drama is a lesser but still compelling work by William Luce, whose masterpiece is The Belle of Amherst, a magnificent one-woman show about famous 19th American poet and recluse Emily Dickinson.

In Barrymore, TIP executive director Ira David Wood III gives a tour de force performance as that legendary ham's ham: early 20th century stage and screen actor and drunk John Barrymore, a.k.a. "The Great Profile." Barrymore is 60 and at the nadir of his career when this bittersweet backstage drama begins in an empty theater, a month before his death in 1942.

The one-time matinee idol is plotting a comeback as Richard III and has hired a prompter (Andrew Sync in a nicely polished cameo that mixes disgust with a growing sadness at how far the great man has fallen) to feed lines to him. But Jack Barrymore, who arrives modestly drunk and proceeds to get soused, is now little more than a pickled ham, his once-extraordinary comic and dramatic talents nearly destroyed by decades of hard drinking and hard living.

Jack Barrymore's dark night of the soul starts out funny, but the undertow of talent squandered, utterly squandered, eventually trumps all the dirty jokes and painfully personal anecdotes that interrupt this disastrous run-through of Richard III. For details, call 919/831-6058.

Author's note: For a complete review of Barrymore, see the September 19th edition of Robert's Reviews, a FREE theatrical newsletter, which is archived below.