The LA Weekly
"Director John Gallogly keeps the stakes SIMMERING!"
The Los Angeles Times
Theatre West Presents A World Premiere of a New Play
by ALLAN MANINGS
Directed by John Gallogly
Produced by Jerry Goldstein and John Gallogly
with Paul Denniston, Steve Franken, Alan Freeman, Maria Kress, Roy Vongtama
April 1 thru May 8, 2011
Fri & Sat at 8pm. Sun at 2pm
Buy Tickets On Line
The LA Weekly
GOODBYE, LOUIE ... HELLO
The late playwright Allan Manings was blacklisted and forced to move to Canada. There, he worked on a horse farm till 1961, when he was able to return to Hollywood and forge a successful career in television. So it's not surprising that he should focus on the doings of the House Un-American Activities Committee in this, his final play. Actor-comedian Louis Berns, née Bernstein (Alan Freeman), has reached retirement years, and spends his days with his children, son Scott (Paul Denniston) and bossy but loving daughter, Aimee (Maria Kress), and his lifelong friend and fellow comic, Benjy Gordon (Steve Franken), with whom he plays a daily gin rummy game. For much of Act 1, the play seems to be a gentle, funny Jewish character comedy. But when Scott's journalist friend David (Roy Vongtama) sets out to write a profile of Louie, his research reveals that Louie was called to testify before HUAC in 1951, and named his old friend Benjy, resulting in Benjy's being blacklisted and the destruction of his career. When this information is revealed, catastrophe results. John Gallogly directs a fine cast in a richly nuanced production, with wonderful performances by (Alan) Freeman and (Steve) Franken as the two old actors. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 8. (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org. (Neal Weaver)
5 out of 5 Stars
Allan Manings' world premiere play about two aging stand up comedians starts off with a couple of jokes from Louis Berns (Alan Freeman) and Benjy Gordon (Steve Franken) but the tired old jokes turn sour when a deep dark secret is revealed in Goodbye, Louie ... Hello! now onstage @ Theatre West. With an outstanding cast, very detailed writing and sharp direction ...Louie becomes an engrossing winner.
Plays about McCarthyism/blacklisting strike a tender nerve as American constitutional rights are knocked against a brick wall. Honest men were forced to lie about their colleagues and best friends by naming names in order to keep working in the industry. Many an important Hollywood bigshot lost credibility and integrity through selfish actions, but who knows what one would do under the same circumstances to survive? It's a tough ballgame.
The beauty of this play is that little by little we see Berns' mental condition weakening as he suffers from painful memories of his time in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. His sudden plans to leave New York to live out his days in Arizona startle his son Scott (Paul Denniston), daughter Aimee (Maria Kress) and lifelong working partner Gordon who prefers to remain in his so-called cockroach infested apartment in NYC. Scott, also an actor, bears a grudge against his dad, as Louis has never fully accepted Scott's decision to give up law in favor of show business. Aimee, though married with kids, is still more attached to her father and bemoans his decision to move to a retirement community 2500 miles away. But a heavier dilemma is yet to come. Gordon, best pal and regular card-playing crony of Louis, is unaware of how Louis caused the ruination of his solo career. When Scott suggests that his dad be interviewed for a retrospective magazine article in Vanity Fair, enter reporter David Watson (Roy Vongtama) who discloses some info that rattles Louis and causes all hell to break loose.
The ensemble is terrific with Freeman marvelous as Louis Berns, the wise-cracking comedian who suffers pretty much in silence, but suddenly venting his frustration, anger, fear as he stands to lose his closest friend. Franken as Benjy, the straight man of the act, is reserved, gentle and sensitive, underplaying the role to perfection. Denniston gives a heartwarming performance as lonely and flustered son Scott and Kress is caring and supportive as Aimee. Vingtama is most effective in his brief scene. Director Gallogly offers fine pacing throughout.
With the exception of some onscreen clips at the top, a few stale, tired jokes during card games and some racist jabs at Chinese restaurants, humor is not at the core of the play. I would prefer more to counteract the tragedy that gradually unfolds. But this is not The Sunshine Boys and as is, it is about as real as one could hope for. Goodbye, Louie...Hello! is an absorbing evening in the theatre that you should not miss.
5 out of 5 stars
The Tolucan Times
Love, Loyalty and Pastrami at Theatre West
By Bonnie Priever on April 7th, 2011
An amazing piece of history — the McCarthy era witch hunts — is re-lived theatrically in Goodbye Louie… Hello!, with lead actor Alan Freeman as Louie Berns, nee Bernstein, in a superb performance. He is a Job-like figure, subpoenaed to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee, and must consequently live with the repercussions of his actions against best friend and colleague Benjy Gordon (Steve Franken). On the outside, life appears wonderful for Lou (success as an old time comedian and two charming adult children), yet the incident brought up and revisited by Vanity Fair interviewer (Ray Vangtama) brings these days to the forefront (over a pastrami sandwich!), and is a pivotal moment of the show.
The son, Scott (Paul Denniston) reacts viscerally to his father’s decision to betray his best friend. Intent on going to the “golden land” of Arizona, with ulterior motives of escaping his past, Lou leaves the comforts of his NYC home and his “old friend/bookend” Benjy — the ultimate sacrifice. The late Alan Maning brings a powerful story (based on his own life and career experiences as a blacklisted TV comedy writer), based on a crucial time in American history, to the stage.
The play is essentially about a family man who escaped the blacklist but did not escape the black mark left on others near and dear.
The acting, writing and direction are all top-notch, especially the little film at the play’s start of the two Vaudeville/Borscht Belt like comedians in their heyday doing a routine — so nostalgic of my many summers in the Catskills.
A tape, which sounds like the real life HUAC proceedings, is played during set changes for dramatic effect. Theatre West presents some incredible material and L.A. theatre-goers are lucky to have this venue!
If a man commits a moral crime against his best friend and torments himself with that secret for more than 50 years, is it necessary---or even appropriate---for his children to sit in judgment and literally destroy him---and the lifetime friendship?
That’s the dilemma posed by Allan Manings’ new play Goodbye, Louie…Hello! now having its world premiere at Theatre West in Hollywood.
It’s yet another story about the House Un-American Activities Committee witch-hunt in the 1950s and the Black List of the entertainment industry that followed. As usual, it’s a fascinating story that bears repeating, and this one, though familiar, is well told.
Louie Berns (a histrionic Alan Freeman) is the haunted comedian who “named names” to the Committee, and the name he named was that of his best friend and comic partner, Benjy Gordon (beautifully played by Steve Franken).
In return for his testimony, Louie’s participation was kept hidden, and he went on to a long and successful career on his own television show and in nightclubs, theater, and films. Benjy, on the other hand, wound up in obscurity without ever knowing why. Louie, out of love as well as guilt, has “looked after” his friend through the years and made sure Benjy always had some role in all his (Louie’s) theatrical ventures.
Now the two men, both widowers, are about to part. Louie is determined to move from New York to an “Active Adult Community” in Arizona that he chose largely because it didn’t have an obfuscating name like “Golden Sunset Villas.” And he wants Benjy to come with him. But Benjy is adamant. “Arizona?” he says. “That’s just like New Jersey, only with cactus!”
When Benjy questions why a lifelong New Yorker would want to move to the Wild West, Louie counters by claiming that his grandfather was “the Wyatt Earp of the Ukraine.”
The two men are very funny together, and like all the old-time vaudevillians, they have impeccable timing. As Louie says, “The first rule is to be funny. Funny has a long shelf life.” The challenge with facing an audience, he adds, “is getting them all to laugh at the same things.”
The challenge facing Louie, however, is his aging memory. Ironically, the man who “named names” now has trouble remembering anyone’s name. But he vividly remembers the past, which comes and goes in flashes
The plot thickens when Louie’s two grown children show up. The obvious favorite is the daughter, Amy (Maria Kress), who kvetches over her father as if she were his mother. The son, Scott (Paul Denniston), is seething with resentment and anger because he has chosen to become an actor rather than a lawyer, and he is well aware of his father’s disappointment in him.
Being a show business family, the children have grown up with Louie’s mantra, Polonius’ speech to his son, Laertes: “This above all, to thine own self be true…” And now they are putting their father’s feet to the fire. It’s time for him to be true to his mantra. Whether the penalty is worth the price it exacts is up to you to decide.
And while Freeman and Denniston, as father and son, are a little over the top from time to time, Director John Gallogly has managed to make the actors believable; they make an engaging drama out of what is essentially a rather thin story line.
Goodbye, Louie...Hello! takes place in Louis Berns' (Alan Freean) luxurious apartment on Central Park West (beautiful set by Jeff G. Rack). His son Scott (Paul Denniston) and daughter Aimie Berns Michaels (Maria Kress) live nearby; his best friend Benjamin "Benjy" Gordon (Steve Franken) and he spend a great deal of time together reminiscing and playing gin rummy. Such a beautiful apartment; so why is Louie packing up to move to a retirement home in Arizona where he doesn't know a soul? Naturally, his children are very upset and are trying to talk him out of leaving all of his memories and everyone he knows behind?
In their heyday, Louie and Benjy were famous comedians. Louie went on to fame and fortune with a remarkable career in nightclubs, films, Broadway and his own long running television series. Benjy's career, unfortunately, fell by the wayside, but the two remained fastidious friends for all of the years. Throughout the play there is great deal of humor performed with perfection by these two talented veterans of show business. And when it comes to the serious moments in the plot, they are still in top form. Instances between father Louie and son Scott are riddled with friction , and these times prove the talent, not only of Freeman, but of Paul Denniston who truly lives his character.
As the plot progresses, and Scott's friend David (Roy Vongtama) comes to do an interview with Louie, we learn what Louie's real motivation is for "running away." Memories of his past, and how it is revealed, will affect his family and his relationship with his best friend.
Goodbye, Louie...Hello!, written by Allen Manings, boasts a superb cast under the direction of John Gallogly. It plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, Sundays at 2 PM, through May 8, 2011, at Theatre West, located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West Hollywood (buy close to North Hollywood, Universal City and Studio City. For reservations call (323) 851-7977, or go online at www.theatrewest.org. Recommended.
"CRITIC'S PICK! 5 OUT OF 5 STARS!"
"The late Alan Maning brings A POWERFUL STORY (based on his own life and career experiences as a blacklisted TV comedy writer), based on a crucial time in American history, to the stage."
"A great deal of humor performed with perfection by these two talented veterans of show business."
"Theatre West presents some incredible material and L.A. theatre-goers are lucky to have this venue!"
"An EMOTIONALY DRIVEN performance by Alan Freeman."
Lights: Yancey Dunham
Sound: Charlie Mount
Stage Manager: Roger Cruz
Graphics: Charlie Mount
Theatre West Executive Director: John Gallogly
Publicity: Philip Sokoloff
Photos: Tom Zeleny
"The acting, writing and direction are all TOP-NOTCH"
"An ENGAGING drama"
John Gallogly Directs
Goodbye…Hello for Theatre West
by GARY BALLARD | April 1, 2011
The newest offering of Theatre West, which has produced plays since 1962, is a world premiere entitled Goodbye, Louie . . . Hello! by the late Allan Manings.
This play is creating some new bittersweet memories for John Gallogly, the company’s executive director. He explains, “Allan and I were friends for a long time. When my wife and I first came to town almost 30 years ago, we worked with Allan’s wife Whitney Blake at the Dupree Dance Studio Theatre in a production of The Cradle Will Rock. We grew to be friends. They would invite us to their home in Malibu on weekends, where our daughter would play with their grandchildren on the beach.
Read More at LA STAGE TIMES...