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“Tuesdays With Morrie” sells out and moves to Upland

August 12, 2010

Duane Thomas

I will say at the outset that the last time I saw Duane Thomas act was 1977 or so. He embodied Tevya in a succession of Gallery Theatre productions of Fiddler on the Roof. Add to that A Christmas Carol and other shows, Duane was then, and remains today, iconic among Pomona Valley and Inland Empire theatrical circles. Not bad for a retired superior court judge.

It was a joy to see him as Morrie Schwarz opposite Terrence Gunkel Tuesday night in a sold-out Candlelight Pavilion. (Full disclosure: Mr. Gunkel is directing me in this fall’s You Can’t Take It With You at the ~300-seat Candlelight Pavilion, the finale to Inland Valley Repertory Theatre’s 2010 season. He truly didn’t slip me a twenty to write this.)

Terrence Gunkel

Thomas turned 80 this year and IVRT turned 20. Co-founders Donna Marie and Frank Minano (a fellow teenaged Gallery Theatre actor all those years ago) used the occasion to honor Thomas’ 40-plus years in local theatre. It was a fitting “second act” to the evening after Thomas and Gunkel rode comfortably through Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie. Well, comfortably for them, maybe. It brought my buddy to tears; he knows too well the sense of loss when an older friend, from whom he learned so much and for whom he cared so much, dies.

I’ve vowed not to dive beyond shallow waters and into “reviewing” plays here, but at the risk of endorsing old friends (and new ones), I will encourage you to see Tuesdays With Morrie when it moves to The Grove Theatre for two weekends. If you’ve seen Duane act over these 40+ years, you really need no encouragement. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself. And how Gunkel managed to play a man far younger than himself, I don’t know … at least until we get to work on our Kaufman & Hart piece.

Frank Minano directs.

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm through August 22. 909-920-4343.

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