The Matrix Theatre has a reputation for well tuned productions and Nick Ullett’s “Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard” is no exception. Ullett, a cancer survivor, came to the United States in 1964 with the promise of stardom. With his comedy partner, Tony Hendra, the duo worked clubs in New York as well as playing The Ed Sullivan Show in the sixties. Ullett opens the show with a somewhat bizarre bit, directing off stage chickens all clucking like anything. For what follows, the story of his forty-odd years in Show Business and dealing with the terrors of battling cancer, it’s just weird. Ullett’s delivery and timing took some warming up, but as a raconteur, singer and musician, he is sincere and charming.
Issues with projections on an upstage screen make them a little hard to see. It may have been a technical glitch. Possibly changing the lighting (which is a simple adjustment from the existing lights for the current Matrix show, NEIGHBORS) should be easy and make the projected images pop to illustrate the parts of the story he wants to emphasize.
The ninety minute show moves smoothly from Nick’s early stories of opening for Lenny Bruce at the Bitter End and watching him get hauled away for obscenities, funny interaction with Ed Sullivan trying to do a comedy bit, through four wives and two major bouts with the big C. Now in his sixties, Ullett (gullet without the ‘g’ thank you very much!) knows himself and plies his trade in a way that can only get better as the show matures. Lisa James’ direction is simple and straight forward. The possibility of a stage assistant might double Nick’s budget but the few costume changes he makes might go more smoothly with a little help. I’d lose the chickens, but maybe keep the tux.
Ullett’s closing song on the piano is a stitch and an apt climax to learning about his life… so far. This is a good way to spend a Monday evening.
Plays Mondays Only through October 25th
The Matrix Theatre
Hollywood, CA 90046
323 852 1445