If anyone could give Groucho Marx a run for his money as far as acerbic wisecracks, it was playwright and raconteur, George S. Kaufman. In fact, he helped write the Marx Brothers' stage and screen success, Animal Crackers. And if anyone could play Groucho Marx and George S. Kaufman, it's Frank Ferrante.
Ferrante has been playing Groucho for years, but May 19 he tackles Kaufman in a world premiere show at Philadephia's Walnut Street Studio, By George. Penned by Ferrante and directed by Amanda Rogers, the bio looks at Kaufman's four decades in the theatre, including the creation of his two Pulitzer winners, The Man Who Came To Dinner and You Can't Take It With You. Also studied are Kaufman's collaborations with George Gershwin, Moss Hart and Edna Ferber, and his controversial relationship with Mary Astor. Though the show promises a healthy does of Kaufmanian wisecracks, it won't shirk from the phobias and neuroses that often held him captive.
Author and actor Ferrante has devoted most of his career to playing Marx, which he has portrayed for more than 1,500 performances in various productions, and for which he received a New York Theatre World Award and a Laurence Olivier Award nomination. Recent directorial turns include Laughter on the 23rd Floor and the world premiere of Old Wicked Songs, both at Walnut Street.
For tickets ($15-$25) and information on By George at Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio on 3 [sic], opening May 20 for a run through June 14, call (215) 574-3550, x. 4.
-- By David Lefkowitz