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updated: 7/28/2011 9:37 AM

Marx Brothers comedy comes to Prairie Center stage

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  • Jake Robertson plays Groucho and Carlos Kmet is Chico in a scene from "The Cocoanuts" at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts.

      Jake Robertson plays Groucho and Carlos Kmet is Chico in a scene from "The Cocoanuts" at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts.
    Courtesy Rob Pileckis

  • The four Marx Brothers are played by, from left, Jacob Storck, Jake Robertson, Jack Corkery and Carlos Kmet.

      The four Marx Brothers are played by, from left, Jacob Storck, Jake Robertson, Jack Corkery and Carlos Kmet.
    Courtesy Rob Pileckis

  • Video: Marx Brothers "Why a duck"

 
Submitted by Rob Pileckis, Schaumburg Summer Theatre

There's a simple question that, even more than 80 years after it was first uttered, manages to crack up a room with delight when heard.

"Why a duck?"

And it will be asked again when Schaumburg Summer Theatre restages the Marx Brothers' Broadway (and later Hollywood) hit, "The Cocoanuts," at the Prairie Center for the Arts. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., July 29 to Aug. 6.

Opening in 1925 with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin (his first full Broadway score) and book by George S. Kaufman, "The Cocoanuts" placed the Marx Brothers onstage soon after the runaway success of their first Broadway effort "I'll Say She Is."

Mostly known for the film version, "The Cocoanuts" jettisoned the brothers from being the talk of the town to international film stardom, as audiences everywhere could then enjoy Groucho's irreverent wisecracks, Chico's con-man doublespeak, and the silent Harpo's joyful buffoonery.

With a plot revolving around the doings at a hotel during the Florida land boom in the 1920s, "The Cocoanuts" paved the way for comedy sequences that remain among the brothers' most memorable routines, including the timeless "Why a duck?" exchange between Groucho and Chico.

"The Cocoanuts was written specifically for the Marx Brothers, who had a very stylized approach to comedy," says the Prairie Center's Rob Pileckis, who first directed the show in 1992. "Our job is to match that nuance and timing as much as possible, and thanks to a very strong quartet of actors playing the brothers, we'll be able to pull it off."

For Jake Robertson, reviving a role played by Groucho Marx leaves little room for error.

"The task comes down to being Groucho, so to prepare for the role, I've been watching a lot of his movies to extract the essence of his persona," says Robertson, a Lombard resident.

The featured cast also includes Carlos Kmet of Lombard as Chico, Villa Park residents Jack Corkery as Harpo and Jacob Storck as Zeppo, Barrington resident Elly Glavich playing Mrs. Potter, Hoffman Estates resident Thomas Squires as the romantic Robert Adams, Palatine resident Danielle Floberg as the sweet ingenue Polly Potter, Sophie Nagle of Villa Park as the scheming Penelope Martin and Vinny Prisco of St. Charles as her partner in crime Harvey Yates, and Schaumburg resident Michael Pirovano as hotel detective Hennessey.

The Schaumburg Summer Theatre program is sponsored by the Village of Schaumburg.

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