By Beatrice Williams-Rude
By Georgie, he’s got it!
Let me exclaim at the outset that Ed Dixon is brilliant–as an actor, author and raconteur.
This solo show is riveting, riotous and revealing. Irrespective of whether one is familiar with the career of much honored character actor and singer George Rose, the anecdotes, enchantingly recounted, are hilarious. Among the familiar names: Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Richard Burton, Ian Richardson, Katharine Hepburn, Lynne Redgrave and Hermione Gingold. Ed Dixon’s impersonation of Hepburn is particularly telling. The mention of Alan Jay Lerner losing the profits of My Fair Lady in a divorce settlement with one of his eight wives brought guffaws.
While there are many inside-showbiz references, the audience is included. Rose and Dixon were both opera lovers and classical music enthusiasts. However, Dixon doesn’t assume everyone is familiar with the work of Herman Prey and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; he identifies them for the wider audience. It’s at this point that we learn that Dixon is also a teacher—Rose wants Dixon to teach him how to sing like Herman Prey.
Georgie opens with our narrator, Ed Dixon’s getting a job in a touring company of The Student Prince in the 1970s when operetta was essentially dead. This is where he first meets George Rose. We are taken vignette by effervescent vignette through Dixon’s and Rose’s careers, their encounters with one another and throughout Dixon wonders whether they are friends, really friends.
Rose loved exotic animals and we meet his mountain lions as well as his unpleasant dogs. The well-structured play starts to take a dark turn with the death of the mountain lions. Despite enthusiastic encounters for decades, there was a mysterious side of Rose that Dixon didn’t dare probe because he was uncertain about the depth of their relationship: Were they truly friends or merely acquaintances?
What the audience sees in retrospect is the leit motif—chocolate-colored boys, Juan.
While Georgie seems to be a paean to the prodigious talents of George Rose, in the end it’s anything but hagiography. What Ed Dixon saw while visiting George Rose in Santo Domingo was horrifying. The Tennessee Williams play Suddenly, Last Summer comes to mind. When does “local culture” become hideous criminality? Dixon was so deeply shocked it led him to question decades of his own life. The horrible murder of Rose by 12-year-old Juan and his family was the epilogue. It must have been therapeutic for Dixon to write this play, and performing it each night might provide catharsis.
Georgie is a must-see for acting aficionados, would-be memoirists, psychologists, criminologists, theater historians, and just about anybody who wants to spend a fascinating 90 minutes in the theater.
Ed Dixon is the playwright and performer; Eric Schaeffer the excellent director who is also the scenic designer. Chris Lee is the lighting designer.
The producers are Martin Platt, David Elliott, Mary Cossette, Jamie deRoy and Riki Kane Larimer, Richard Winkler and Mike Blair.
Georgie is playing at the Loft at the Davenport Theater, 354 West 45th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Aves.) The official opening is Wednesday, Feb. 1 and it runs through April 15. There is no intermission in the 90-minute offering.