Love, Loyalty and Pastrami at Theatre West

From l, Alan Freeman, Maria Kress and Paul Denniston in “Goodbye Louie... Hello!” at Theatre West.

 

An amazing piece of history — the McCarthy era witch hunts — is re-lived theatrically in Goodbye Louie… Hello!, with lead actor Alan Freeman as Louie Berns, nee Bernstein, in a superb performance. He is a Job-like figure, subpoenaed to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee, and must consequently live with the repercussions of his actions against best friend and colleague Benjy Gordon (Steve Franken). On the outside, life appears wonderful for Lou (success as an old time comedian and two charming adult children), yet the incident brought up and revisited by Vanity Fair interviewer (Ray Vangtama) brings these days to the forefront (over a pastrami sandwich!), and is a pivotal moment of the show. 

The son, Scott (Paul Denniston) reacts viscerally to his father’s decision to betray his best friend. Intent on going to the “golden land” of Arizona, with ulterior motives of escaping his past, Lou leaves the comforts of his NYC home and his “old friend/bookend” Benjy — the ultimate sacrifice. The late Alan Maning brings a powerful story (based on his own life and career experiences as a blacklisted TV comedy writer), based on a crucial time in American history, to the stage. 

The play is essentially about a family man who escaped the blacklist but did not escape the black mark left on others near and dear. 

The acting, writing and direction are all top-notch, especially the little film at the play’s start of the two Vaudeville/Borscht Belt like comedians in their heyday doing a routine — so nostalgic of my many summers in the Catskills. 

A tape, which sounds like the real life HUAC proceedings, is played during set changes for dramatic effect. Theatre West presents some incredible material and L.A. theatre-goers are lucky to have this venue! 

Goodbye Louie… Hello! runs through May 8 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Theatre West is located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. For ticket information, call (323) 851-7977 or visit www.theatrewest.org.

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