Talkin’ Broadway review

from Talkin’ Broadway

Benchley Despite Himself

By Tracy Lyon

One look at Nat Benchley and there is no denying his heritage. Traces of his grandfather are evident in his face. Benchley’s grandfather was Robert Benchley, who made his mark as a performer, writer and member of the infamous Algonquin Round Table.

Nat Benchley has delved into his grandfather’s past in order to create Benchley Despite Himself. The one-man show, which is being presented by The American Century Theater, is currently playing at Theater On The Run in Virginia. The intimate space is a good fit for this enjoyable little show.

Benchley Despite Himself tries to be casual in its approach. The set is comprised of worn furniture that includes a weathered writing desk on which an old fashioned typewriter rests. Photos of the elder Benchley are scattered throughout the set, as well as two wonderful Hirschfeld drawings.

Benchley takes a conversational tone as he discusses his grandfather’s heartbreaks and successes. As he outlines the events of Robert’s life, he occasionally stops to re-create one of his grandfather’s pieces. Benchley also spends a great deal of time focused on Robert’s famous friends such as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. It is at these moments where the younger Benchley is the strongest.

Benchley is quite funny when acting out Robert’s work…. Mr. Benchley is a fine actor and carries the show quite well.

The material is very funny and the direction by Nick Olcott is subtle and quite nice. In the end, Benchley Despite Himself is a rather endearing piece of theater. Benchley Despite Himself runs through March 1st.