‘Royal Family’ becomes Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum

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As Irving Berlin wrote, “There’s

no people like show people,”

and “The Royal Family” at

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum

proves just that. “The Royal

Family” provides a glimpse into

the lives of the famous family of

actors the Cavendishes. Written

by George S. Kaufman and Edna

Ferber, the Cavendish family was

written as a parody of the real life

actor family the Barrymores, with

the womanizer Tony Cavendish

representing John Barrymore and

the Broadway diva Julie Cavendish

representing Ethel Barrymore.

Like a good parody of actors

should, this one contains over the

top, melodramatic, self-absorbed

characters, and this production

is brilliantly cast highlighting the

Geer family of actresses as well as

several Theatricum regulars.

This play examines the sacrifices

made to live the life on

an actor, the cost of giving it up

and of course that inextricable

pull that the stage has to lure you

back, that only those who have

walked the boards themselves

can truly appreciate. The rustic

outdoor stage is beautifully transformed

into the grand salon of an

upscale New York apartment; the

sheer size of which adds to the

chaos and comings and goings of

the large cast. At times director

Susan Angelo attains an almost

“Noises Off” cacophony of activity

that is balanced brilliantly with

the quieter, smaller moments.

With all of the melodramatic

reactions – Willow Geer as Gwen

Cavendish has a brilliant moment

when she exclaims to her beau,

with a hand flourish no less, “But

I’m an actress!” – that abound

throughout, the most dramatic

moment of the play is met with

absolute silence and cuts straight

to the heart of the matter.

Melora Marshall as Julie Cavendish

manages to be genuine,

heartfelt and self-absorbed all

at the same time, and her grand

entrance can’t be beat. That is

until Tony Cavendish, played by

Aaron Hendry, enters in a tornado

of self-important bravado and

sweeps the entire household up in

his energy and enthusiasm. Both

deliver memorable performances,

but the real star of the show is

Ellen Geer as the matriarch Fanny

Cavendish. Her portrayal of this

once prolific actress who is now

on the declining slope of failing

health is something to behold.

She delivers great matter-of-fact

zingers while wrangling her nutty

family one moment, then lets her

frailty show through the next only

to come back fighting and stand

on her own two feet. She is the

walking, talking embodiment of

what the Cavendish family stands

for.

The rest of the cast is rounded

out with a talented cadre of actors

with Alan Blumenfeld as Oscar

Wolfe the Cavendish’s manager

providing the buoy to which the

pandemonium can attach itself.

“The Royal Family” is a fast-paced

romp that will put a smile on your

face with its poignant portrayal of

what it means to be family.

Through September 15th

Tickets: www.theatricum.com

or 310-455-3723

Kat Michels is a two-time

regional Emmy award-winning

writer with an AAS in video production

and a BFA in theatre.