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A CurtainUp Review
The Butter and Egg Man
Butter and Egg Man: Term for a man with money to spare, coined by 20s club owner and legend Texas Guinan when a man with a Mid western drawl dispensed fifty dollar bills to all the dancers at her El Fey Club in New York and brought drinks for the house. After the man told Guinan that he was a big man in dairy products she introduced him to the crowd as a "big butter and egg man."

David Turner and Tom Mardirosian
David Turner and Tom Mardirosian
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Way before Mel Brooks created Max Bialystock, George S. Kaufman used the stock theatrical character of a producer short on cash and ethics and big on ambition to spin a comedy that was driven by one-liners and duplicitous shenanigans. When I last saw this comedy, The Butter and Egg Man, three years ago by the Cocteau Repertory Company, it proved itself to be a minor comedy but lots of fun, as well as an interesting oddity in that it was Kaufman's only solo effort and a precursor to his better future work with a variety of collaborators.

The Atlantic Theater Company's post-Producers revival is still fun to watch and comes with the added timeliness of giving audiences a chance to recognize bits and pieces of Bialystock and Bloom in Joe Lehman and his sidekick Jack McClure. . Director David Pittu has succeeded in trimming the play to a fast-paced hour and forty minutes, with a brief pause between the first and second act instead of the double intermission of the original.

Act One sets up the situation of this theatrical version of the country mouse being bamboozled by the big city rat. Act two shows the Naif deeply involved in the sure-to-fail show with a has-been leading lady just before and after its first performance in the then major try-out city of Syracuse. By Act three he's primed to outsmart the wise guys -- and bamboozle a second butter and egg man into bankrolling his return to a happily-ever-after ending in his home town. (see our review of the Cocteau Butter and Egg Man for a more detailed synopsis).

Unlike his previous Kaufman revival for the Atlantic, Once In a Lifetime, Mr. Pitu has wisely focused on his directing, instead of distracting himself with an acting part. He has also kept things simple Anna Louizos's nicely detailed but very basic set has been enclosed to build on the hilarious pre-intermission finale when almost a dozen people crowd into a Syracuse hotel room after the first performance of Her Lesson.

Julie Halston
Julie Halston
(Photo: Carol Rosegg)
David Turner is engaging as Peter Jones, the show biz smitten Ohio hotel employee. Tom Madirosian gives the required tough veneer to the unscrupulous, cigar-smoking producer and his own synopsis of the clearly mediocre vehicle in which he's offering Jones a 49% share is hilarious. John Ellison Conlee is his usual amusing self as the second "butter and egg man" who, like Jones, is in the hotel rather than the dairy business. But the funniest lines and performance come from Julie Halston as Lehman's acid-tongued wife who takes a liking to Jones.

Rosemarie DeWitt is likeable as Lehman's spirited secretary and the future Mrs. Jones but one can't help wishing Heather Goldenhersch, whose name still appears on the promotional cards for the show, had been able to play Jane. Her unique vivacity and quirkiness would have added much to this role. The assorted additional characters are well portrayed by the solid ensemble.

Bobby Frederick Tilley II's costumes are authentically 1925 and make their own witty statements -- especially Julie Halston's print outfits. The Butter and Egg Man may never rival The Producers or Kaufman's more mature collaborative plays, but it's l good clean fun neatly tied up with a wicked twist.

The Butter and Egg Man at the Cocteau
Beggar On Horseback

Once In a Lifetime
As Thousands Cheer
June Moon
Merton of the Movies
The Royal Family

The Butter aand Egg Man
Written by George S. Kaufman
Directed by David Pittu.
Cast: David Brummell, Todd Buonopane, John Ellison Conlee, David Cromwel, Amanda Davies, Rosemarie DeWitt, Julie Halston, Tom Mardirosian, Michael McGrath, Robin Skye, David Turner, Amelia White
Set Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: Bobby Frederick Tilley II
Lighting Design: Robert Perry
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Running time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, including one 15-intermission
Atlantic Theater, 336 W. 20th St. ,212/ 239-6200 company web site

9/12/02-10/20/01; opening 10/02/02
Tuesday - Friday at 8:00pm, Saturday at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, Sunday at 3:00pm -- $45, Student Rush Tickets will be available for $15 (cash only, day of performance
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 9/28 performance.
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