By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Continues through September 1 at Theatre Three. Call 214-871-3300.
Continues through August 19 at Theatre Arlington. Call 817-275-7661.
Actors are nothing but "tinsel and sawdust," wrote Noel Coward in Present Laughter. And scratch away the phony tinsel, quipped actor-pianist-raconteur Oscar Levant around the same time, and you'll find the real tinsel underneath. But it should always be pretty tinsel, shouldn't it? Tinsel is happy. Sawdust is sad.
Theatre Arlington's overwrought version of Carol Burnett's biographical Hollywood Arms is a different kettle of dead fish. Here, the dark blocks out the light in a retelling of the beloved TV comedian's early days living with her harridan of a grandma (played by Trich Zaitoon). As Burnett frames it in the play (co-written with her late daughter, Carrie Hamilton), she survived a Depression Era upbringing that rivaled Oliver Twist's childhood for poverty and neglect. Seeing it acted out by a pigtailed moppet (Ingrid Fease), on a set (by Bob Lavallee) resembling Ray Milland's digs in Lost Weekend, will send you home in a deep, deep funk. If you can stick with the play past the interminable first act, you might muster a little grin out of one short burst of silliness toward the end. That's when the college-age Carol, called Helen in the play (and played by Mikaela Krantz), re-enacts an entire Betty Grable movie all by herself. But the little skit is the only respite in two and a half long hours of withering despair.
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