Review: Hollywood Arms at Chautauqua Playhouse

Hollywood Arms

There’s no business like show business.

There’s no business like show business.

Photo courtesy of Warren Harrison

Showtimes: Fri 8pm, Sat 8pm, Sun 2pm. Through 4/20; $19-$22; Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Road in the La Sierra Community Center;
(916) 489-7529;
Rated 4.0

The life of comedian Carol Burnett is truly a rags-to-riches story. From a marginal existence with her grandmother in Texas—her mother had run off to Hollywood to become a writer—to an equally marginal life in a cheap hotel known as the Hollywood Arms in 1941 California, it looked pretty bleak.

But as Burnett and daughter Carrie Hamilton depict it in the mostly autobiographical Hollywood Arms, now at the Chautauqua Playhouse, it had its bright moments too.

Several of the main characters are unlikable. Nanny (Nanette Michael Rice), the grandmother, was a six-times married gold-digger who never got the gold. Mother Louise (Stephanie Hodson), a wannabe writer, was an alcoholic who married another alcoholic (Steve Buri) and kept holding out for that star interview that would make her rich. Helen (the Burnett character, played by Katie Prochazka as a youngster and Cattaryna Goodin as an adult) was an optimist whose sunny disposition paid off when—like a scene from a movie—she finds herself in New York on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Director Warren Harrison, who also has a small role as the cop who busts the family’s numbers business, gets a slew of fine performances, especially from Rice and the young actors Prochazka and Nathan Marinelli, as her friend Malcolm.