Theatrical lore is a dying art. For generations, especially before the advent of recordings, stage actors kept the legends of their predecessors alive by repeating colorful stories about them. Ed Dixon’s Georgie, a thorns-and-all chronicle of his long friendship with the great English character actor George Rose, is an heir to that tradition. Genial and orotund, Dixon provides marvelous accounts of Rose’s special qualities as a performer—which won him Dixon’s hero worship and two Tony Awards—as well as his droll idiosyncrasies as a person. (He kept adult mountain lions in his Greenwich Village apartment.) Dixon also passes down some of Rose’s own anecdotes about stage legends of yore, and impersonates them vividly.
The show takes a sharp and very dark turn in its final third, however, and that’s where it loses its balance. In 1988, Rose was brutally murdered in the Dominican Republic by family members of a local teenager named Juan, whom he had adopted and with whom he allegedly had a sexual relationship. Dixon describes visiting Rose shortly before the murder, and being horrified to discover that Juan was a preadolescent 12-year-old boy. This is the show’s dramatic turning point; it triggers Dixon’s disenchantment with Rose and a deep personal spiral. But it is also untrue: Juan was 17 or 18 years old at the time. A distortion of such magnitude is ethically dodgy, and it undermines the rest of Dixon’s show. One expects exaggerations in lore, but at a certain point a stretched story snaps.
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