Theater review by Gail M. Burns and Larry Murray
Larry Murray: “Character Man” at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield is a wonderfully funny and touching evening of unforgettable theatrical memories. Jim Brochu may not be the first actor to draw on the famous and near-famous he has rubbed shoulders with during a long and rich life to create an evening’s entertainment, but he is certainly one of the best. As he explains at the outset, playing a “character man” means you are an essential part of any play, even though people are not likely to remember your name.
Gail M. Burns: Jack Gilford, Bert Lahr, Lou Jacobi, Zero Mostel, Jack Albertson, Phil Silvers, Charles Nelson Reilly… Indeed, while I recognized many of the names Brochu mentioned – and their faces as they appeared on a screen upstage – I am hard pressed to place his mentor, David Burns (obviously no relation), even though his face was shown at various ages throughout the show. But Burns was Brochu’s dear friend and enabler – his entree into the fascinating and frustrating world of show business.
Larry: For an hour and a half he certainly keeps the Barrington Stage audience spellbound as he rattles off anecdotes and stories about his father, his co-stars, and his beginnings as an orange drink seller in lobbies at intermission. The period he focuses on most effectively is the one in which I was a stage door Johnny myself. But while I was outside with a program and a pen he was running to get corned beef sandwiches from a deli for Cyril Ritchard, Australian stage, screen and television actor, and director. Ritchard is probably best remembered today for his performance as Captain Hook in the Mary Martin musical production of Peter Pan.
Gail: I can just taste that orange drink, Larry. It was watery with strong overtones of cardboard, and it was wildly overpriced, but you HAD to buy one when you went to the theatre in New York. I suspect now that I, like Brochu, could no longer afford one, let alone a Broadway ticket, but the very mention of that beverage brings back memories to anyone who has ever darkened a Manhattan theatre.