Fringe Review: A Perfectly Wonderful Evening

Why would T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx meet for dinner? That is Harold Bloom’s profound question. The why is left to the audience. The why it would be odd comes from Bloom’s contention that T. S. Eliot was an anti-Semite, something there is debate on in the real world, but for this production, look past that.


Why would T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx meet for dinner? That is Harold Bloom’s profound question. The why is left to the audience. The why it would be odd comes from Bloom’s contention that T. S. Eliot was an anti-Semite, something there is debate on in the real world, but for this production, look past that.

A Perfectly Wonderful Evening comes at you from three angles. First there is the lecture. Bloom (played brilliantly by Jim Stump) is the professor. Learning about literature through his eyes begins with the battle between modern (20th Century) literature and the classics. Stump becomes his character when he literally calls on an audience member, by name. “What is the meaning of life…Mr. Mummert?” I was convinced Jim was Bloom, a famous literally critic and scholar. I also laughed my ass off since I was sitting right next to the would-be student. I am glad I wasn’t and English Major, who wants e called on the carpet like that?

Next there is the correspondence and actual meeting of the two giants, which took place in 1964. We have great performances from Tom Manning and Patrick Downy. Both men do justice to their real life counterparts. Manning is transfixing as an elderly Eliot and Downy gives us the real Groucho, not his public personality.

The final angle was most difficult to understand. There were fantasies of the two men and Eliot and his first wife. These come across as memories or as part of the letters between Eliot and Marx. I was a bit confused where they fit in.

Another standout performance comes from Emma Robertson who filled all of the female roles and acted as the Muse to all of the men. Her character is the glue and grease to the others, and Roberston pulled them through, including some very quick costume changes.

I was impressed with the directorial effort by Chris Wesselman, who lucked out with the amazing cast. Technical difficulties caused the audio to fail, but without them it still worked.

Christopher Karr’s script was meaty. I could go for better quality Marx jokes at certain points, but when you use the Elephant in the Pajamas joke, you can’t go wrong.

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