Wednesday, March 7, 2007

ON BORROWED TIME (1991) at Circle in the Square

Mr. 1 On the Town remembers:

ON BORROWED TIME (1991) at Circle in the Square—thoughts on George Campbell Scott and Nathan Lane

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of doing a little research for the forthcoming memoir of one of the founders of the Circle in the Square Theatre, Theodore Mann. I saw my first play at the downtown Circle, THE HOT L BALTIMORE in 1975 and saw many other productions at the uptown Circle. One of the most memorable was ON BORROWED TIME with the iconic George C. Scott, Conrad Bain of television’s DIFFERENT STROKES, and the rising young actor Nathan Lane.

I had already seen Scott and Lane in PRESENT LAUGHTER at the Circle in 1982 and anticipation was high for their reteaming in BORROWED. It’s a quirky tale about an old man, his grandson, and a deal with Death. You may recall the movie with Lionel Barrymore, as kind in this film as he was evil in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Right after this show, Lane went to do the GUYS AND DOLLS revival, then went Hollywood to voice Timon in THE LION KING. I always liked him as a latter-day Chuck McCann, dating back to the Nyquil commercials [“Can I borrow a cup of (sniff) Nyquil?”] and his role on THE DAYS AND NIGHT OF MOLLY DODD as Bing Shalimar, a Manhattan character who’ll walk your dog, stand on line for you at the DMV, or do whatever else it is that Manhattanites won’t do. He disappeared from the show as a recurring character but showed up again near the end of the MOLLY run. Molly [Blair Brown—more on her some other time as I’ve probably see her more than any other actress on stage] is desperate for a babysitter and calls Bing, giving him the 411 on what to do with the baby. Bing asks, “Is it okay if I have to step out?”

Scott was a man of unbelievable versatility. If you ever saw MOVIE MOVIE, you know how drop-dead hilarious he was. In ON BORROWED TIME he was tough, tender, and hilarious, defying all attempts to typecast him. Integrity personified, this is a man who once turned down $1 million to do a car commercial because it meant shaving the beard that he grew for a stage role. One of the many things I admired him for in this role was playing his age or even older. Many of today’s stars cling to middle-age roles and look silly. I remember when James Garner said to hell with it, no more, after they taped him up to look younger in the TV miniseries SPACE [not to be confused with SPACE COWBOYS]. Scott embraced and enhanced and these senior roles.

So when I hear about Nathan Lane’s acting partner in two great productions, sorry Matthew Broderick, my first thought is GCS.

Page from original program, copyright PLAYBILL 1991.

No comments: