27 Jul

By Lee Tannen
At the Arts Theatre
The Extraordinary thing about the TV series I LOVE LUCY is its longevity. It ran from 1951-1957
Having spent seven weeks in the US at the beginning of the year. I watched re runs of Lucy every morning on T.V, and apart from a little mental adjustment for political correctness, it is just as endearing and funny as it was then. Lucy was a female clown, and her husband Desi Arnaz was a perfect foil for her idiocy.
In this play, we find out that the pompous Desi was a drunkard and a womaniser and the ditzy Lucy an intelligent and well organised woman – just the opposite of the characters they played.
As director Anthony Biggs says Lucille Ball was a trailblazer. A woman with her own TV studios, married to a Cuban and still working in her seventies. All unusual for the nineteen fifties.
But this play takes place ten years before her death in 1989 and concerns a true love story between her and a young gay man Lee Tannen. Tannen is the author of this play about their sometimes-passionate relationship. She relied on him as escort, confidant, and backgammon player, a game neither of them played very well
Lee Tannen’s story began when, as a devoted fan of the Lucy shows, he found out that he was distantly related to her and took advantage of this to meet his idol. This led to an extraordinarily close relationship. Even though he had a long term special other on the opposite side of the continent, his affair with Tom never got in the way of his friendship with Lucy.
Sandra Dickinson is an American actress who made her life here in England. Her portrayal of the great comedienne is uncanny and completely believable. Her love for the young man is palpable and her frenzied rage when he opposes her is thunderous. This is a portrait of one highly respected, powerful lady and the young gay man who loved her. Tannen is played in this production by Matthew Scott a young man who has just finished in “An American in Paris” on Broadway. They are the only two performers on stage and they have great rapport
The play was produced earlier at Jermyn Street Theatre, and it was so well received that it has transferred to the Arts theatre. What is interesting about this first night of the transfer is that so many of the people in the audience had already seen the play before and they came to enjoy it again. I was in the audience on the press night at Jermyn street and sat next to the author, very much aware of his wrapt attention to the show as he noted every laugh, obviously still planning a future production. I felt a bit like a joke tester.
So, like the others I saw it again and am happy to say I Loved Lucy – and still do. She died in 1989. But through the respect paid to her by Lee Tannen and the excellence of this production, Lucy is alive and well – very funny, very moving and to be seen at the Arts Theatre
This is a love story without sex but no less powerful for that.

One Response to “I LOVED LUCY”

  1. susanrdo July 27, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

    I would absolutely love to see this,. . How long will it be playing? I’m planning on going to Europe in October . . was going to go in September but my daughter is having her baby October 1 so don’t want to be away for that.




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