“Tales from the Guttenberg Bible” is a pleasant evening of storytelling

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Arnie Burton, Steve Guttenberg and Carine Montbertrand standing on stage
Tales from the Guttenberg Bible (L-R) Arnie Burton, Steve Guttenberg and Carine Montbertrand T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

Guttenberg tells his tales with the aid of three talented actors

Steve Guttenberg and Arnie Burton on stage talking to each other
Tales from the Guttenberg Bible (L-R) Steve Guttenberg and Arnie Burton T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

The George Street Playhouse ends its season with a gentle comedy, Tales from the Guttenberg Bible, written by and starring screen and stage actor Steve Guttenberg. It’s the story of his career, told in a fashion that, were it a book, would make for a good, lazy summer read.

Guttenberg tells his tales with the aid of three talented actors — Arnie Burton, Dan Domingues, and Carine Montbertrand — who among them play 90 different roles. Burton gets most of the older men’s parts, including Guttenberg’s father, his press agent, and various actors, agents, producers, and directors. Burton also does a wicked send-up of flamboyant producer Allan Carr (Can’t Stop the Music).

Domingues plays most of the younger men’s parts, most notably Guttenberg’s “uncle,” an actor himself with a steady career in Hollywood who acts as Guttenberg’s mentor and guide to the unwritten rules of film production. Montbertrand plays a wide range of parts, including Guttenberg’s mother and soap actress Genie Francis, along with various casting directors, agents, and backstage staffers, both female and male.

Guttenberg’s stage persona is familiar to those who have seen his movies: likable and open. His willingness to learn, combined with a touch of naïveté and a quick-witted chutzpah, enables him to bluff his way onto the Paramount lot and into an unused office, from where he starts his career. Encounters with stars such as Richard Widmark (in Guttenberg’s first picture), Gregory Peck, Ted Danson, Tom Selleck, and Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy are related with humor and genuine affection and gratitude.

Arnie Burton and Carine Montbertrand sitting on a bench wearing glasses and holding cigars
Tales from the Guttenberg Bible (L-R) Arnie Burton and Carine Montbertrand T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

David Saint, George Street’s Artistic Director, helped shape the structure of the play by creating a direct timeline from Guttenberg’s teen years to where he is today. As director, he has created a comedic space which, while not loaded with belly laughs, sends a warmly humorous glow into the audience. His directorial choreography with the multiple entrances and exits of Burton, Domingues, and Montbertrand is nothing short of amazing.

A flaw in the play is in how it draws attention away from Guttenberg, the nominal star. He is onstage for almost the entire show, but his three co-stars give the show most of its juice. Their multiple characters attract most of the audience’s interest, leaving Guttenberg at times to be more the narrator of his life than the main player.

Caite Hevner’s set is simple yet effective, with multiple small doors from which pop many of the characters of the show. Less effective, though, is a curtain made of many thin strips of material through which some characters enter and on which Hevner’s projections are shown. At the performance I attended, the curtain got tangled after the first entrance and stayed that way, distracting from the action.

Despite these flaws, Tales from the Guttenberg Bible is a light, entertaining look into show business as shown through the eyes of the affable Steve Guttenberg. You couldn’t ask for a nicer end to this season at the George Street Playhouse, or for a more cheerful evening’s entertainment. I suggest you go to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center and sit down to listen to some Tales from the Guttenberg Bible.

Tales from the Guttenberg Bible is presented by the George Street Playhouse at the Arthur Laurents Theatre inside the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center through May 21, 2023. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 732-246-7717 or go to georgestplayhouse.org. The wearing of masks in the building, while not required, is recommended.

In the interests of transparency:  Allen Neuner, theatre reviewer for Out in Jersey, works in the Patron Services Office of the George Street Playhouse.