Young man moves to big city.
It’s a tale as old as time.
But when the young man in question is Steve Guttenberg and the city with the bright lights is Los Angeles, you know it’s going to be far from an ordinary story.
“It’s an everyday man coming out into an atmosphere with all these really exotic characters who are so far removed from his upbringing,” Guttenberg says of “Tales From the Guttenberg Bible,” now playing at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. “How he navigates the waters and tries to make a career for himself while keeping his values − and not getting into trouble.”
While Guttenberg hopes audiences will walk away touched by the story of a young man striving toward his goals, he also says they should prepare to laugh − a lot − “because situations are pretty extraordinary.”
Guttenberg, 64, has a film and TV career spanning nearly a half-century and is known for his work in “Three Men and a Baby,” “Police Academy,” “Cocoon” and so many more cultural touchstones.
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“Tales from the Guttenberg Bible”also stars Arnie Burton, Dan Domingues and Carine Montreband, playing scores of characters of who shaped Guttenberg’s early career.
Despite the sliver of Guttenberg’s career that the play focuses on, it was a period packed with potential material. In fact, his first draft was 300 pages. It’s since been whittled down to 68 or so, with the help of George Street Artistic Director David Saint, who also directs the show.
“What I really love is how open Steve is,” Saint said. “I told him first, write me everything, write me anything you want to write. What I love doing is editing and cutting and shaping a script and giving you the shape and the dramatic form.”
Saint says he learned his love of editing from playwright Arthur Laurents, who he calls his mentor. “He used to say everything needs cuts, even Shakespeare,” Saint said. Fittingly, “Tales from the Guttenberg Bible” will be performed in the Arthur Laurents Theater at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center.
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Saint says it’s Guttenberg’s likability and innocence that will make audiences root for him from the outset.
“Then you see all the remarkable people that he has met in his lifetime. I mean, can you imagine being 17 years old and getting on a private plane with Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, to go make the movie ‘The Boys From Brazil’ and having your mother and father bring some salami and hard candy to the jet to give to them, because as his mother says, ‘the food on airplanes is terrible?’ I mean, the amount of innocence is so astonishing, and yet, he landed on his feet every time and people just liked him.”
It’s intimidating though, Guttenberg says, to let people peek into such a personal tale.
“Your life is intimate, and private. So when you bring other people into it and allow people to see your life, I had to let things go and open the doors and trust that people would understand my life. And I also understand that there are going to be judgments. Some people are going to like it and some people aren’t,” he said.
For that reason, and more, it was important to separate the actor Steve Guttenberg from the character Steve Guttenberg, both Saint and Guttenberg said.
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This is the first time Guttenberg has worked with George Street Playhouse.
“It’s a beautiful theater,” he said. “And David Saint and the board have made a great contribution, not only to New Brunswick, New Jersey, but to the arts.”
Go: “Tales From the Guttenberg Bible,” tickets $25 to $70, through May 21; George Street Playhouse, at the Arthur Laurents Theater at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, 11 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org.
Ilana Keller is an award-winning journalist and lifelong New Jersey resident who loves Broadway and really bad puns. Reach out on Twitter: @ilanakeller; email@example.com
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