Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FDR at The Playhouse

Ed Asner as FDR
Photo Courtesy of The Theatre Guild

The Pasadena Playhouse rises from the ashes with Ed Asner’s tribute to the 32nd President of the United States: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In FDR, based on the 1958 play by Dore Schary, "Sunrise at Campobello," Asner takes the story past the original ending of the play to its sad conclusion as Roosevelt, having won his fourth term as President, succumbed to a massive cerebral hemorrhage while in retreat in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945. Asner, a popular staple with television audiences with his long run as Lou Grant on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the follow-up CBS hit "Lou Grant," now at the age of 80 wants us all to know that age is only a number and talent is as talent does. To tackle a tour de force like this, one hundred minutes of pure exposition through monologue, at any time of life is a major challenge for any actor. Asner is, however, not just any actor. This actor knows his stuff.

From the rise of the curtain that re-opens the Playhouse… well there is no curtain, uncredited scenic design presents a simple three area set that gives the story simple spaces to delineate time and locale, which works well. As Asner struggles from FDR’s wheel chair to canes, having told the story of how he awakened one day at the age of 40 unable to move a muscle and how he regained some movement, it’s clear that the actor has no intention of giving the audience an imitation of the President. To the contrary, even with a wispy hair piece, it’s still Ed, the familiar curmudgeon in demeanor and voice whom recent audiences enjoyed as the voice for Mr. Fredrickson in the Pixar hit, “UP.” Asner, unlike Ralph Bellamy, who played the part in the Broadway production of "Campobello," and subsequently in the film of the same name who successfully duplicated FDR’s voice and attitude… Asner simply allows the spirit of the President access. The actor steps out of the way and the words and tone of the President unfold.

As our country balances on the verge of social change, as it did when FDR took office and with his leadership found a way back to sanity, this memoir… a sort of love letter to the President, is apt and moving. FDR embodied all that is good in a political figure and Asner shares it with good humor. Having been accused of being overly thrifty, even a “penny pincher”, FDR tells the story of a poker game at the White House where, among others, a young army officer, Dwight Eisenhower, was in attendance. At the end of the evening, it turned that Roosevelt owed Eisenhower twenty dollars. When he paid the officer, Eisenhower asked him to autograph the bill for him. “Are you going to keep it,” asked the President? “Of course,” said Eisenhower. “Well, hell, then, give me back that twenty and I’ll write you a check!”

The Playhouse is open for business and this show should draw an audience.
Go prepared to listen.

FDR starring Ed Asner
Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino
Pasadena, CA
626 356 7529
Through November 7, 2010
$59.00 Top
$15.00 Rush one hour before the curtain
check for dates and times

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