'Convict's Return' does justice to vaudeville

By Mia Proli Gable

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The days of vaudeville are over. Audiences are no longer enamored by slapstick and silent comedy perfected by such comedians as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Marx brothers. Even trying to find out about the great performers of the era is difficult, and English comedian/playwright Geoff Hoyle knows just how tough it can be.

The Convict's Return is Hoyle's tribute to vaudeville. In this one man show, he relates the mostly true story of his stay in New York City where his show, Feast of Fools, was playing off-Broadway. Like most professional performers, Hoyle was wondering what he would do after the close of his show. Through conversations with audience members backstage, he became interested in vaudeville, specifically Bobby Clark's skit, "The Convict's Return."

So Hoyle used the vast performance resources of New York City to research Clark, which wasn't easy. The Convict's Return was originally commissioned by the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 1992. Since then it has been performed throughout the country and has come to rest in Tucson with the Arizona Theatre Company.

The Convict's Return combines straightforward dialogue and dream sequences that transform Hoyle into vaudeville actors of old, performing their shtick. These dream sequences are the funniest part of the show. Hoyle is simply marvelous as he becomes the mad conductor to the Lone Ranger theme song.

It is nice to see some comedy come to ATC and The Convict's Return is a good choice. Not only is it entertaining, it also educates the audience about an era of time that tickled the funny bone of America.

The Convict's Return runs May 5-21 at Temple of Music and Art. For information call 622-2823.

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