HOLLADAY — Gee! is set in a nightclub in New York in 1953. A group of Gertrude’s close associates get together for drinks eight months after her death. This group includes Richard Aldrich (Andrew Maizner), Gertrude’s husband and producer; Noel Coward (Stephen Williams), her frequent leading man; and Fanny Holtzmann (Debra Flink), her lawyer and close friend. They reminisce about their late friend Gee (Gertrude’s nickname), each having their own way of moving on after her death.
This locally written play brought a little insight into the little-known story of Gertrude Lawrence—a famous actress from the 1920’s-1940’s, and her close friends. Writer/Director Beth Bruner wrote this play as her thesis in 1977. When describing this play Bruner said, “I researched, wrote a study of how [Gertrude Lawrence] used her popularity and prestige for public service, decided the focus of my play should be her effect, not herself.” This unique approach—portraying Gertrude Lawrence’s influence without actually depicting her in the play fulfilled the goal of Bruner which was showing the effect of Lawrence, not just who she was.
Gee! was a slower moving play with just one set and most of the commentary being set around one table at a night club. At times I was lost in some of the commentary since it is based in a time period I never lived in and am not as familiar with. The older members of the audience would laugh at lines which I didn’t always fully understand. However, I was able to relate with the topic of losing a loved one. It was interesting to watch each character deal with this loss. Some characters felt the show must go on and chose to remember Gee by celebrating their talents on stage. Other characters felt the heartache was too much and coped by leaving the stage. This play isn’t just about Gertrude Lawrence, but about human nature and how emotions direct our decisions.
The character that stood out to me the most was Richard (Andrew Maizner). He really brought the emotion of a heart broken husband to the stage. There were different scenes where he showed anger, sorrow, and hurt, as well as finding different means to deal with the pain that many in the audience can relate with. Corie Sorensen and Dan Christensen, who played the night club singer and piano player, displayed great musical talent throughout this show. One of my favorite aspects of this play was the music from the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, which further conveyed the time period.
This play only had one simple set: a 1950’s night club. One way the set was used creatively, even with limited resources, was by having audience members sit at some of the tables at the night club. The cast did a fine job; however, I felt there were times they needed to speak louder since they didn’t have mics on. I couldn’t always hear their lines over the music and I heard other audience members whisper the same complaint to each other.
Overall, I found this play an educational experience. It isn’t a sit back and be entertained experience, per se. It is a play that is more to make you think about human nature. I found it interesting to learn a little bit more about the stars and show business of the 1920’s – 1950’s. I would say this play is more for an adult audience. It is slower moving with sophisticated topics, which I don’t think youth would enjoy. It runs about an hour and a half long with a ten minute intermission.