John Barrymore was perhaps the most famous of all American actors before WWII and was certainly among the best Shakespearean actors ever. He had it all — an illustrious stage career, fame as a film actor since the silent days and, just like all real movie stars, plenty of marital woes. In William Luce's two-man play Barrymore, filmed by Eric Canuel with Christopher Plummer as the ''great profile'' and John Plumpis as harried off-screen prompter Frank, we catch the actor at his nadir. Alcoholic and thoroughly washed-up, he yearns for a comeback, a Broadway revival of one of his greatest hits, Shakespeare's Richard III. He rambles through the dark theater, haunted by memories both funny and sad. Wearing a faded fedora, Plummer recites snippets from the Bard, belts out ''I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo,'' and regales us with bawdy limericks and choice word pictures about his four ex-wives (''bus accidents'' is one of the more polite descriptions), all while he inhabits the still-breathing shell of that once-great tragedian who ''pissed it all away.'' Although Plummer is a bit too old for Barrymore at the end of his life (he died at 60 with Richard III never realized), he has that unquenchable Barrymore spark and sparkle. In its recent review, The New York Times said, ''The performance is the thing…from smile to sneer [Plummer] captures Barrymore's majesty and grandiloquence, recites his triumphs and humiliations.''
Mon., Dec. 3, 7 p.m., 2012
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