“You are not a person, Mr. Burns. You are an experience!”A Thousand Clowns
is a thousand laughs. The amusingly eccentric lifestyle and dialogue of the nonconformist unemployed Murray Burns, who shouts his grievances to New York from his apartment window, makes this play truly wonderful. I was first introduced to the story I was kid through the film version starring Jason Robards, Jr. I loved it then. And now having finally read the play, I think I love it even more.
The story’s rather simple—a mentally gifted boy (Nick) living with his eccentric uncle Murray, who’s forced to conform to society and find a job in order to retain custody of his nephew. On the surface, the play doesn’t really seem like a comedy. Yet the comic essence of the dialogue and the setting—Murray’s one room NYC apartment chock full of Murray’s collection of clocks, radios and odd assortment of knickknacks—brings charisma to the play. As I was reading, I began to feel like Sandy, Nick’s social worker. My bohemian side was steadily rising to the surface listening to Nick and Murray’s anecdotes and quips. And like Sandy, I was ready to drop everything and join them on the window seat in the midst of all the chaos in the apartment. ;) The addition of Sandy, though, is a great touch on Gardner’s part. I love how she moves in and immediately sets about humanizing the place and Murray.
The photographs of the play with the original cast in my edition were a great touch.