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4/2/2013 11:03:00 PM
CLOWNIN' AROUND: 'A Thousand Clowns' opens Thursday at PCA
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Chris Horton, left, playing Albert Amundson, Catherine Manning, right, playing Sandra Markowitz and Brad Newman as Murray Burns perform during a Monday dress rehearsal for the Prescott Center for the Arts production of A Thousand Clowns.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Chris Horton, left, playing Albert Amundson, Catherine Manning, right, playing Sandra Markowitz and Brad Newman as Murray Burns perform during a Monday dress rehearsal for the Prescott Center for the Arts production of A Thousand Clowns.
Karen Despain
The Daily Courier

With "a thousand clowns" running amok in his very being, lead character Murray Burns confronts a major decision: Which one shall trump?

That this is the tangle Murray (Brad Newman) faces is obvious in the first act of "A Thousand Clowns," which opens Thursday at the Prescott Center for the Arts.

Murray had quit his job as a joke writer for a cheesy children's show, "Chuckles the Chipmunk," and finds himself walking a tight rope because of his nephew Nick (10-year-old Hayden Furse) who has lived with him since Murray's vagabond sister left him on his doorstep years earlier.

It seems the precocious Nick has written an essay on the benefits of unemployment insurance for his school, which, in turn, asks the New York State child welfare board to investigate Nick's environment.

From the outset, the witty Murray is going to have people in the audience scratching their heads. "Is he ADD or just on the edge," Newman said of his eccentric character.

Zaniness reaches an even higher pitch when social workers Albert Amundson and Sandra Markowitz (Chris Horton and Catherine Manning) arrive at Murray's apartment and are met with the man's discombobulated conversation.

The social workers end up sparring over the way each is handling the case, Amundson stomps out, Markowitz dissolves into tears and Murray tries to counsel her about "all the Sandys running around in there." When she asks him to "return to reality for a moment," Murray said, "I'm only a tourist there."

If anyone is to ground Murray it will be his brother, Arnold (Sean Jeralds), who acts as his agent, arduously trying to get him a job because Murray is on a deadline: get a job or lose Nick.

Arnold does, in fact, patch things up with Murray's former boss Leo Herman (Glenn Verguth), aka "Chuckles," who fights his own demon, neuroticism.

Murray is about to sabotage his second chance with Leo, when Arnold tells his brother, "I'm able to deal with the available world, Murray. I go with the breeze every way it blows. I take pride in that. You're cursed because you can't surrender, and I see what that's doing to you. I've been the best Arnold Burns I can be."

Arnold's role, Jeralds said, "is to be the voice of reason," and Murray hears him.

"I want him to know the exact reason he was made a human being instead of a chair," he says of Nick. "In addition to that, I like having him around."

Randy Faulkner, who artfully designed the set and directs the play, describes "A Thousand Clowns," as a play "of diversity of people and life in general. Nobody's bad, nobody's good. That's how we all are. We're all a little different."

"It may be an older show," Jon Meyer, PCA executive director, said. "But, its message is still pertinent today... the search for something meaningful in life. Arnold accepts the narrow path of his life, but Murray is searching for something more meaningful, albeit outside the norm, which gets him into trouble."

"A Thousand Clowns" runs at 7:30, this Thursday, Friday and Saturday and April 11,12 and 13 and at 2 p.m. this Sunday and April 13. Tickets are $19 for evening performances and $15 for the matinees. Call 445-3286 for tickets or visit

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Article comment by: Christa Agostino

Saw the preview Monday night. Sweet, poignant and funny. Terrific writing, well performed and it's so fun to see Brad with his acting hat on! (And yes, he does pick up a guitar to play "Yessir, That's My Baby" at one point in the play). I'm so grateful for PCA and the opportunity to see live theater in Prescott!

Posted: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Brad Newman is a "hoot" any day of the week. This should be well attended just to see him " in character"?

Posted: Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Article comment by: michael ray riemer

A great film as well, with Jason Robards as the lead. One of my all time favorites.

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