Theatre at its most basic element is storytelling. It follows logically that good theatre is simply good storytelling. Signature Theatre is not doing good theatre, but rather, exceptional and stellar theatre as they present the limited engagement run of Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose. Written by and starring Ed Dixon and Directed by Eric Schaeffer, this one-man 90-minute production delves into Dixon’s personal friendship with the most extraordinary character man known to the Great White Way— George Rose. Captivating the audience in a heartwarming tale that drastically shifts gears just before the tale’s natural conclusion, this piece of theatrical genius will sweep audiences away in the mesmerizing moments of warm, fond memories, cherished anecdotes, and treasured nostalgia that radiate a heat most resplendent directly into the darkened recesses of the heart by way of Dixon’s hypnotic and soothing voice.
Eric Schaeffer sets the tone for the atmosphere with his Scenic Design. The play space is an old-fashioned theatre, a cross-sectional view with the crumbling edge of the light proscenium still visible, as well as all the fly-space pulley ties roped off along the back wall. Schaeffer crafts his own sense of nostalgia into the space with this layout; a vast Broadway stage that transports the audience to a time gone by rests simply upon the boards, waiting for the magic of theatre to overtake it. Enhancing the experience of the set, Lighting Designer Chris Lee follows Schaeffer’s vein of simplicity, though that is not to say that Lee’s work lacks creativity. Keeping Ed Dixon in warm but low-lit glows of amber throughout the performance primes the mind to these memories as they unfold. Lee also shifts the lighting tone and color when Dixon— speaking as George Rose— begins recalling and recounting conversations with other stage giants, like Lawrence Olivier and Mae West. Lee generates a different color or lighting effect for each of these characters, and furthers still the atmospheric experience by adjusting the light every time a new venue or scene arises in the tale.
Schaeffer sets a pacing to the show that is riveting. A one-man show, regardless of how fascinating the subject matter, can tread dangerously upon boring the audience, or allowing them moments to disengage from the tale. With Schaeffer’s inherent understanding of how to move a show forward, the mischievous charm that Ed Dixon possesses easily congeals into a laser of comedic genius, zapping the audience in all the right places to achieve the desired effect of enjoyment and laughter without artifice or construct. Aligning this up-tempo notion with the simplistic bare essentials of a one-man show, Schaeffer allows the audience to focus on the truth of the situation, the story in all its glory as delivered by powerhouse performer Ed Dixon.
Dixon’s writing is the epitome of memory captured in a lively memoir style. The first 75 minutes of the performance is warmly endearing, fun-filled stories that paint George Rose to be larger than life; an earnest stroll down the well-lit path of memory lane if you will. Dixon masterfully switches hands just before the show’s end, flipping the comfortable good nature of the show onto its ear and revealing a dark, desolate, and horrific side of the tale that is nothing short of unforeseeable. The structure of the text all but begs the audience to engage with Dixon as he wends his way through the captivating life experience of being platonically entangled with his idol and mentor.
Dixon’s performance is incandescent, as if he were inventing every detail presently upon the stage as if it had never existed before that moment. Wonderfully cheeky, Dixon’s ability to make George Rose so damn colorful would make a rainbow blush with inferiority. The fully affected accent unabashedly exploits the character’s flagrant homosexuality and quirky tendencies while simultaneously giving him a rich inner depth now exposed for all to experience. His division of characters is smashing, no two voices, postures, cadences, or even glances with his eyes being the same. It is a wonder to experience so many stories so intricately woven through the course of one evening and all through the performance of one man.
Dixon wholly embodies the spirit of George Rose throughout the production, delivering a caricature of consistency every time he takes up the affected accent and mannerisms of Broadway’s greatest character man. The performance is so impressive that there are moments when Dixon fully becomes the magnificent picture that he has painted with his words, coming to mind most soundly being when he reenacts Rose as Doolittle from My Fair Lady, and the result is astounding. With a loaded ending that speaks profundity in waves, Dixon delivers a phenomenal show from the opening moment he takes the stage to the teary-eyed gaze in his final moment.
Truly the toast of the town, this limited engagement production of Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose is a thoroughly delightful production that will nestle itself into the cockles of your heart before upending you into an emotional sinkhole from the likes of which there is only a rewarding and cathartic escape at the show’s conclusion. Remarkable, a tale worth telling, a story worth sharing, Ed Dixon’s performance will leave a handprint on your heart that will not soon be forgotten.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose plays through February 7 2016 in the Ark Theatre at Signature Theatre— 4200 Campbell Avenue in Arlington, VA. For tickets call the box office at (703) 820-9771 or purchase them online.