Lake Superior Theatre - 270 N Lakeshore Blvd. Marquette, MI 49855

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A Thousand Clowns

A Thousand Clowns

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Unemployed television writer Murray Burns, lives in a cluttered New York one-bedroom apartment with his 12-year-old nephew, Nick (Barry Gordon). Murray has been unemployed for five months after walking out on his previous job, writing jokes for a children’s television show called “Chuckles the Chipmunk”. Nick, the illegitimate son of Murray’s sister, was left with Murray seven years earlier.

Murray is a free spirit with an offbeat sense of humor. He phones the weather service to get the day’s forecast and carries on an extended conversation with the recorded message on the other end. He has been unemployed for several months, having quit his job as a writer for Chuckles the Chipmunk because he fears becoming trapped in normal middleclass life. Although he has been promising Nick that he will look for a new job, he has no intention of doing so today, because he is celebrating the birthday of Irving R. Feldman, the owner of his favorite delicatessen. Nick, who is twelve, has decided to skip school in honor of the occasion.


When social workers from the Bureau of Child Welfare come to investigate, he must decide whether to accept some level of conformity in order to show himself a fit guardian. The play is episodic and funny, as Murray meets all challenges to his lifestyle with irreverent humor. Before Murray and Nick can leave, they find at the door Albert Amundson, a social worker, and Sandra Markowitz, a psychologist, both from the Bureau of Child Welfare. Murray has been ignoring their phone calls and letters for eleven months, and they have come to see whether he is a fit guardian for Nick. Murray answers their serious questions with jokes and non sequiturs. Albert is earnest and stuffy, and he has no appreciation for Murray’s whimsical sense of humor. Sandra, on the other hand, finds Murray and Nick charming.

As Murray Burns is flat-out marvelous,. Burns dominates the play from start to finish, a character with a challenging range of action and emotion. He is real, and genuine every minute, and when he finally makes the changes he has to, including agreeing to go back to writing the children’s show, it’s not a defeat, it’s a conscious choice that he makes, knowing it’s the right one.

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