Talk about your dysfunctional families.
“I was seated between my comatose father and my lobotomized aunt,”
Charles Nelson Reilly remembers. “My mother was screaming racial
slurs at the neighbors through our fourth-story window and my Uncle
Bernt was preparing to spend another evening at various funeral
parlors, viewing dead people he had never met.”
Somehow, Reilly overcame what he calls his “Ingmar Bergman film
childhood” and became an award-winning actor, teacher, stage and
opera director. He’ll share these experiences and more Monday with
the audience at the Laguna Playhouse.
His one-night stand is called “Save It for the Stage: The Life of
Reilly,” the concluding show in the playhouse’s summer Monday
specials. Written by Reilly and Paul Linke, who also directed the
piece, “Save It” was nominated for the 2001-02 New York Outer Critics
Circle Award for outstanding solo performance when it was performed
off-Broadway last fall.
It won’t be Reilly’s first visit to Laguna. He directed the
illustrious Julie Harris, who played Emily Dickinson in the one-woman
biographical drama “The Belle of Amherst” in 2000. He’ll share his
personal experiences about Harris and other legends of the stage and
Now 71, Reilly can number among his credits appearances in the
original companies of “Bye Bye Birdie,” “How to Succeed in Business
Without Really Trying,” “Hello Dolly,” “Skyscraper” (with Harris),
“God’s Favorite” and “Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play.” He’s
also made the rounds of the talk shows, with more than 100
appearances in Johnny Carson’s three decades as host of the Tonight
Show. Reilly will guide his Laguna audience through his circuitous
journey through show business, beginning with his grade school
portrayal of Christopher Columbus. His teacher remarked, “He may not
have the manliness or coloring of Columbus, but he’s the best actor
in the class.”
He’ll trace his career from his discovery of the world of
laughter, his humble beginnings in New York and the challenges of a
family life that in itself would make a movie of the week.
“You are in for a treat,” exclaimed the New York Daily News in a
review of Reilly’s one-man show. The Los Angeles Times called it
“sharp, spry and funny,” while the Hollywood Reporter said “Reilly
blends pathos and humor with the best of former clowns Chaplin,
Keaton, Langdon and Skelton.”
* TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.