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Life of Reilly

Charles Nelson Reilly's autobiographical monologue is funny and illuminating.

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Reilly -- star of stage, screen and Match Game (upper-right corner) -- died last May, but luckily for his fans, he had spent the early 1990s riffing on his life in a touring stage monologue. In 2004, filmmakers Barry Poltermann and Frank Anderson captured Reilly's last performance of the work, and it unspools now as a loving tribute to the late entertainer. The directors cut in the odd bit of archival footage, but this vehicle runs primarily -- and wonderfully -- on Reilly's words. Everybody has a life story to tell, but only the gifted can transform it into revelatory entertainment. Reilly's story-telling technique is classic old-school: He shaggy-dogs at length, then pauses before delivering the dramatic thump or a zinger punchline in his trademark Bronx yelp. But it's a delight to watch a seasoned pro, spinning his tales of both woe and triumph in an easy, confidential manner. Strangely, Reilly barely has a word about Match Game, where most people remember him from. (I've long suspected there must be outrageous backstories from that show, and who better to spill 'em?) But Reilly's childhood is rich with family dysfunction and, ultimately, between laughs, these tales shed much light on the odd, gangly "sissy boy," who as his difficult mother so often suggested, harnessed life's pain and absurdity and "saved it for the stage." Mon., May 19, through Thu., May 22. Harris (AH) [capsule review]

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