(Culver City, CA - March 8, 2009) In this one-man show, Hollywood legend and born storyteller Kirk Douglas steps onto the stage of the theater named after him to reflect on his remarkable life and career. Before I Forget is an intimate encounter with one of the most affable, talented and mesmerizing icons of the screen. This production is written and performed by Kirk Douglas and directed by Jeff Kanew. There will be two more performances - next weekend - Friday, March March 13 at 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 15 at 2 P.M. As you might expect, ticket availability is extremely limited. If a performance is sold out, you can join a cancellation line which begins one hour prior to curtain at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
Georja: I found this 90-minute revue to be very inspiring and awesome. Mr. Douglas (nee Issur Danielovitch) takes us through all the important memories of his life. As he reflects, "Some memories are sweet and some are bitter." We learn about the stroke that still impedes his speech (I missed about 18 percent of his words even from close up). He delves into his childhood, his career, and his familial relations. I learned a lot that impressed me about him, not least of which, that he is doing this one man show at the age of 92 and with symptoms of his stroke still apparent.
Gerald: He did not appear to miss a beat. Not to take anything away from him, apparently director Jeff Kanew gave him a good support system. What I thought was an LCD screen video monitor mounted facing him in the footlights turns out to be a Teleprompter. And the large video projection screen in the background is used to show not only clips from his movies but also recently taped interview segments with him. I'm guessing if he needs to get his bearings, he can catch up on the monitor whenever the audience is watching a clip. No matter how it was achieved, he came off as the great showman that he is.
Georja: And many parts of his piece are funny as well as touching. His childhood longing for a caring hand from his father is acted out in several succinct scenes. The one time in his life his father acknowledged him was in a grade school production. His father handed him an ice cream cone as a reward. This story is richly paid off in the well crafted piece when at the end of the show, Kirk's famous son Michael walks onstage and hands him an ice cream cone. Kirk also spends quite a bit of time telling us about his stroke and how it affected him. To make himself understood, he must now speak slower, but he explains, " When I talk slow, people listen. They think I'm going to say something important." In a video clip, son Michael chimes in, "Good for oral sex!"
Gerald: Among the jokes Kirk tells about his recuperation is the time when he was malingering and informed his wife Anne he wanted breakfast in bed. He says her terse reply was, "Then you'll have to sleep in the kitchen." Tough love is what she gave him. He obviously dotes on her, and he shows the clip of their getting married for the second time on their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Georja: There are many things to admire Kirk Douglas for, including his 87 movies and nine books, generous philanthropic work and multiple awards. One of his most admirable achievements and for which he is most proud is his breaking of the notorious "blacklist" for writers in 1958. The list was instigated by Joseph McCarthy during the days of the Communist witch hunts. Douglas commissioned blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to write the film Spartacus, and then had the cajones to actually put Mr. Trumbo's name on the credits. Douglas's great historic accomplishment was not publicly recognized for many years.
Gerald: It's worth noting that his own production company produced Spartacus, as well as Paths of Glory and Seven Days in May. Even though he isn't particularly known for being a Hollywood radical, you could say that these three movies in particular emphasize the difference between courage - which his characters always had - and blind loyalty to authority.
Georja: Good point. As an actor I also enjoyed hearing about how he got started. The child of impoverished Jewish immigrants, there was no nepotism for him. He got his first jobs on Broadway as a humble offstage echo. His wit, intelligence and charm come through in all his musings. What makes me even more enamored of him is his acknowledgment of the mitzvahs given to him through animals. As a young boy who felt alienated from male companionship, the family horse Bill was his best friend. And after his stroke when he had lots of trouble overcoming depression, his Labrador retriever Danny, showed him the way. By the simple act of opening the door for his dog, he became aware that doing for others gave him a lift, and it pulled him up spiritually. I loved him for having the wisdom to see the healing power animals can have for humans.
Gerald: And actors can do that for us, too.
Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and an animal advocate.
Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hemphill series of comic novels.
Photos by Craig Schwartz
KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE
9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
Ticket Prices: $25
Tickets may be purchased by calling CTG Audience Services at (213) 628-2772, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles), on-line at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office two hours prior to performances. Hot Tix: $20 each may be purchased in advance or, subject to availability, on the day of performance at the box office (no checks). Groups: (213) 972-7231. Deaf community: information & charge, TDD (213) 680-4017.
Performances continue: Fri. March 13 8pm. and Sun. March 15 2pm.