On your Marx, get set, Groucho

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By Toni Wisner / Staff Writer

Greasy touch up (Leonardo Astorga / Staff Photographer)

By Toni Wisner / Staff Writer

Fans and patrons gave high Marx for “An Evening With Groucho.”

“Duck Soup” was the perfect appetizer to a delectable entrée of comedic ribs and ad-libs that had everyone quacking up during the night long shindig.

The full course happy meal was delivered through film, by the precocious Marx Brothers and in person by the brilliantly funny Frank Ferrante at the Fox Performing Arts Center on May 7.

As the house lights faded and the silver screen flickered and winked with the opening film credits, guests were shown to their seats to watch the screening of the classic 1933 Marx Brothers comedy, “Duck Soup.”

The Marx Brothers were a family comedy act who made 14 films throughout the mid 1900s.

Groucho, who was the middle Marx brother, passed away of pneumonia in 1977 and considered “Duck Soup” his favorite film.

Some of the guests sat donned in vintage attire from the early 1930s to pay homage to the quintessential quartet.

Scott Simpson, a Riverside resident, remembers watching Marx Brothers films as a young kid at the Saturday matinees in a theater in London where he and his family resided.

“This brings back a lot of memories,” he said.

In the 68 minute black and white farce, Groucho plays Rufus T. Firefly, the colorful leader of the small bankrupt country, Freedonia.

Firefly sets his nearsighted sights on a mission to woo a wealthy philanthropic widow, Mrs. Teasdale, played by Margaret Dumont, out of her deceased husband’s fortune.

Margaret naively continues to financially assist her beloved country and its fledgling leader Firefly, but only if the man who she thinks is righteous remains in control.

Things get wacky when the neighboring country’s leader, Trentino, played by Louis Calhern, also tries to woo Teasdale.

In an attempt to secretly take over Freedonia, Trentino sends spies Chicolini and Pinky, played by Chico and Harpo Marx, to steal top-secret information regarding war plans which Teasdale has been holding in her possession.

The conflict between the two leaders and their subordinates, including Firefly’s persuasive secretary, Lt. Bob Roland, played by Zeppo Marx, leads to an all out war of hilarious proportions.

The back and forth banter and foiled attempts of murderous mayhem, fuels the fodder between the money hungry foes.

The movie closes on a quirky note with Trentino surrendering as the Marx Brothers hurl fruit at him.

Teasdale sings the Freedonia national anthem in her most annoying operatic voice, and the viewing audience looking as if they’d just disembarked from a fast and wild ride in a new Ford Model B.

After a quick intermission, Ferrante took to the stage with the musical mastery of his accompanist Jim Furmston on piano.

The Los Angeles based actor, director, producer and writer escorted the audience on an intimate walk down his own personal memory lane.

While sitting at a vanity on stage, transforming his normally good looks into an uncanny likeness of Groucho Marx, he told a story to the hushed crowd of how he met a very sick 86-year-old Groucho in New York City at the impressionable age of 13.

He segued flawlessly from himself as the soft spoken narrator, to Groucho Marx the energetic entertainer as he broke out into song and dance.

Ferrante delivered amusing anecdotes in true Groucho fashion with his cigar protruding from underneath his iconic grease painted mustache.

Audience members roared with laughter as he jumped off the stage and ran up and down the aisles in his signature crouching position picking on innocent bystanders who looked like easy targets for his witty wisecracks.

The audience didn’t mind the side stitches they acquired from Ferrantes gut busting tribute to Groucho, or the dessert sweet sentiment he left their emotions with.

“He (Groucho) tells the truth. His comedy cuts through all the pretense,” Ferrante said. “He was a genius in word play.”

In true playful lore, “An Evening With Groucho” leaves you desiring more treats that tickle your funny Bon Appetite!



(Leonardo Astorga / Staff Photographer )

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