Theater archives

Marxist (in) Theory: ‘I’ll Say She Is’ Might Please Marx Brothers Fans


Confirmed Marxists — meaning fans of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and even Zeppo Marx — may be tickled by the cheerfully amateurish production of I’ll Say She Is, a ramshackle restaging of the 1924 musical that first nabbed the fraternal comedy team their Broadway acclaim. Non-devotees, though, will struggle to enjoy the wisp of a Jazz Age storyline, which follows a bored debutante seeking new thrills in a bizarre array of settings: Wall Street, an opium den, the time-tripped court of Napoleon and Joséphine. Bursting into these locations are the mad brothers Marx, already in utterly disruptive mode, making wisecracks, chasing showgirls, and demonstrating their musical specialties on harp and piano. A Margaret Dumont–type dowager also pops up, somewhat haphazardly, in this two-act (and too-long) endeavor dotted with a dozen tickle-toe ditties.

As adapted by playwright Noah Diamond (who plays Groucho, complete with greasepaint mustache), I’ll Say She Is shows its colors as more of a showbiz footnote than a lost gem worth resurrecting. (A slicker production might at least have made for more sheer fun.) The musical accompaniment thumps, the chorines leadenly stomp, and the leading players at best merely approximate their archetypical characters. Still, when Seth Shelden’s Harpo suddenly cuts the cards with an ax or sweetly plucks out “Clair de Lune,” a little of that old Marx magic materializes.

I’ll Say She Is
Original text by Will B. Johnstone; music by Tom Johnstone; adapted and expanded by Noah Diamond
Connelly Theater
220 East 4th Street
Through July 2