Georgie:My Adventures with George Rose, written and performed by Ed Dixon. Directed by Eric Schaeffer.
Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman.
Ed Dixon as George Rose in a musical mode; photo:Micah Logsdon
“Well, it’s all about the text, isn’t it?"
George Rose in "The Mystery of Edwin Drood"; photo: provided
Text and context are the two things crucial to an actor's work. If actor Ed Dixon learned anything practical from his twenty year friendship with British character actor George Rose it was that. Everything is built on the text, but it is the context that factors the feelings and the words in the creation of an interpretation. For ninety minutes in his very personal one-man show, Dixon recreates that friendship with the older actor and shows us, rather than telling us, the many facets of that friendship. It is clear long before the grimmer ending of Rose's life that the character-star was a unique individual who truly understood the nature of theater, perhaps more than most have done, and could impart his knowledge to a youngster.
Flawed as so many are, flawed in this instance beyond belief, Rose was that oddity in show business, the man who can play the butler and make the role more important than the actor playing the hero could ever manage. It wasn't that he was a scene stealer. No, Rose was a scene player and his work shone in great plays and movies as well as in many lesser works. Sometimes, in fact, you went to the show only to see George Rose.
Based on the stories told in this play it is clear that Ed Dixon was as important to Rose as the older actor was to Dixon. His memories are clear and crisp and in performing them he is right on. His impressive presentation of Rose himself conjures up the actor perfectly even if his "imitation" isn't quite there. It isn't necessary to replicate George but it is necessary to have his essence on the stage and this Dixon does brilliantly.
I saw Dixon perform this show two years ago in a development production at the Sharon Playhouse and, frankly, this show being seen on Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Playhouse's smaller stage is very different from the earlier version. The show has grown darker and more serious although there are plenty of laughs and plenty of sensational stories. There is theatricality in truth and it appears that truth-telling is one of the goals of this author/actor. The combination of personalities, Rose and Dixon, makes for irrepressible theater and great story-telling. Oddly though, the actor's personal journey after the collapse of this friendship is where the story-telling gets rough and the emotional aspects of the tale seem to have diminished in this rewrite and I found myself not crying, but certainly paying very close attention to everything I was hearing. I'm not sure which way was the best, but I never lost interest in Ed Dixon even when he was finally on his own.
Ed Dixon as Ed Dixon; photo: Micah Logsdon
Young Ed Dixon; photo: provided
Director Eric Schaeffer can take credit for some of the final work and its impact on an audience, but it is as much the lighting designer (unidentified in this program) who must claim credit for focusing attention and providing background mood.
Ed Dixon brings an emotional theatrical reality to the work. He never allows us to forget that the story here is not truly George Rose's story, it is Ed Dixon, whose experiences over a twenty year period with Rose as a colleague and friend help create the man, who challenges the world in which he survives year after year. The focus is not on the titular character but on the actor whose life is changed forever by that character.
One intriguing note that particularly caught my attention is the compulsive need shared by the two men to be noticed. Dixon goes through a serious alteration in style while Rose maintains his chosen methods; both succeed through the text they work with and though their attacks on those words may be very different they each come away from the work with the work still intact and informing them every step of the way. In that thought is the miracle of acting, a miracle these two men share.
Georgie: My Adventures With George Rose plays on the St. Germain Stage, 36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA through September 3. For information and tickets call the box office at 413-236-8888 or go on line at barringtonstage.org.