The Virginia Rep has another hit on its hands. Hanover Tavern’s one-man play, “Say Goodnight Gracie,” is a heartwarming and poignant look into the life and times of the one and only George Burns. The show is filled with anecdotes and clips from George Burns’ life, narrated by Burns himself, and especially revolves around his memories of wife Gracie Allen.
The part of George Burns is played masterfully by Scott Wichmann. Masterfully may not even be the proper way of putting it – brilliant, maybe – no, even brilliant doesn’t describe this performance well enough. Wichmann transforms himself into George Burns into such a way that the audience feels like they are watching Burns himself tell his story and deliver his patented formula of dry wit. He’s got the voice, the mannerisms, the cadence – all of these elements blend seamlessly to create the illusion that George Burns is still with us.
The show is a wonderful escape to a simpler time, and seems to be attracting an older audience – mostly those who remember George Burns as part of Burns and Allen, as opposed to those (like me) who only knew him as the old guy with the glasses and cigar who played God. However, the show does not cater only to the older crowd. It captivated the younger audience members and shed light on a fascinating character. Those who knew Burns and Allen, and others like Jack Benny, may understand some of the “in” jokes, but not knowing does not take away from the show.
There was much laughter, as expected, but there were also tears shed throughout the audience as “George” talked about losing his dear wife Gracie. Take tissues with you, because you’ll most likely be reaching for them at some point.
The show is one-act, with no intermission, and runs about 1 hour and 20 minutes – so make sure you make your bathroom trip before-hand, as you won’t want to miss any minute of this emotion-filled joy!
Jennifer Turner can be reached at JTurnerWrites@gmail.com