The straight man and the funny woman |

The straight man and the funny woman

Thunder River Theatre Company
Special to the Post Independent

Thunder River Theatre Company presents the first installment of an original series, “Passionate Collaborators,” conceived and developed by artistic directors Valerie Haugen and Lon Winston. The series’ aim is to explore the lives of artists who shared an intimate relationship and the effects of that relationship on their art.

“Passionate Collaborators: George Burns and Gracie Allen” is an American love story. Vaudeville brought them together, and their brilliant spark became a wildfire. The Burns and Allen act began with Allen as the straight man, setting up Burns to deliver the punch lines and get the laughs. But Allen’s straight lines got more laughs than Burns’ punch lines, so they flipped the act over: Burns made himself the straight man and let Allen get the laughs.

Audiences immediately fell in love with Allen’s character, which combined zaniness and total innocence. As is often the case with performers who play dumb, Allen was, in reality, highly intelligent.

The reformulated team, focusing on Allen, toured the country, eventually headlining in major vaudeville houses. Burns attributed all of the couple’s early success to Allen, modestly ignoring his own brilliance as a straight man. He summed up their act in a classic quip: “All I had to do was say, ‘Gracie, how’s your brother?’ and she talked for 38 years. And sometimes I didn’t even have to remember to say ‘Gracie, how’s your brother?’”

Opening night, followed by a catered reception with champagne, is Friday, June 21, followed by performances on June 22, 28, 29 and 30, and July 4, 5 and 6. A preview of the show takes place Thursday, June 20. Curtain is 7:30 p.m. for all performances, except June 30 and July 4 matinees, which begin at 2 p.m.

Don’t miss this warm and funny love story for all times about one of the most beloved and successful comedy acts in history. Burns and Allen are performed by Winston and Haugen. The show also includes guest performances by dancer Courtney Thompson and basso profundo Jack Lanning, with Terry Lee on piano.

Tickets are $22 for adults, $12 for students and are available online at, or by calling 970-963-8200.

Future productions in the series will focus on Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington, and Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

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