This Wonderful Life Review – One Man Creates a Miracle

Leo Marks in THIS WONDERFUL LIFE - Photo by John Perrin Flynn
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And that one man is Leo Marks, who before your eyes becomes over a dozen different people as he takes on the multiple roles in the 1946 Hollywood classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Rogue Machine is back in business – and brings Frank Capra’s iconic holiday film to the stage in this uproarious and uplifting tale about a man who has given up on life – but regains hope with the help of a second-class angel and an unexpected miracle. THIS WONDERFUL LIFE is based on a short story which Philip Van Doren Stern self-published in 1943 and Capra’s powerful and moving holiday film – which was, by the way, a box office flop but did win one Oscar for Best Technical Achievement for special effects expert Russell Shearman, who developed a new form of cinematic artificial snow used even today in films, a major improvement over the corn flakes which had been used up to that time. Adapted by playwright Steve Murray and directed by Drew Barr, THIS WONDERFUL LIFE brings today’s audiences the special kind of enchantment that surrounded film in the mid-twentieth century glory days of Hollywood.

Leo Marks – Photo by John Perrin Flynn

Let’s take a step back in time. The time is 1946, and the place is the small community of Bedford Falls in upper New York State. It’s Christmas Eve, but George Bailey isn’t in the holiday spirit. As CEO of a tiny savings and loan, he’s in serious trouble. It seems that his sweet but heavy-drinking Uncle Billy has misplaced proof of nearly $70,000 in cash (a lot of money in the 1940s) – and the bank examiner arrives tomorrow morning. The audit can’t fail to disclose the absence of such a huge sum. Pondering the thought of jail time, George has come to the conclusion that he’s worth more dead than alive. In fact, he wishes that he had never been born and is planning to commit suicide. But it’s Christmas Eve, when miracles can happen. That miracle takes the form of Clarence Odbody, a wing-challenged guardian angel who is assigned George’s case. Why not make George’s wish come true and let him see a world where he never existed? A world in which the special contributions George made didn’t happen, and a world where his impact on others never materialized. A world now controlled by Scrooge-like Henry Potter. A place where his hero brother died as a child because George wasn’t there to save him from drowning; a spot in the universe where his loving wife became an unhappy spinster librarian and his children were never born. This is a world where the town pharmacist spent 20 years in prison and Bailey Park (an affordable housing community) is a cemetery – all because George was never born.

Leo Marks – Photo by John Perrin Flynn

And who better to tell the story than Leo Marks, who becomes each and every character in the tale (even an angel). A consummate performer, Marks not only brings each individual alive – but he also does so with compassion, humor, and lots of energy. He probably lost ten pounds as he raced from pillar to post turning words into actions. THIS WONDERFUL LIFE manages to bring home the positive values of the original while injecting some humor – an essential in this time of COVID with its restrictions and potential dangers. To quote director Drew Barr: “Steve Murray’s THIS WONDERFUL LIFE not only celebrates the great gift of this once nearly-forgotten film, but also affords us an opportunity to explore the profound and poignant connection between memory, empathy, and consciousness.” Author Steve Murry highlights “…the piercing humanity of the film and its performances.” Rogue Machine insures audience safety by following the current mandates requiring proof of vaccination and masks inside the theater.

THIS WONDERFUL LIFE runs through January 3, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. in 2021 (12/17, 12/18, 12/19, 12/20, 12/22, 12/23, 12/26, 12/27, 12/31) and 2022 (1/1 and 1/3). The Rogue Machine performs in the Matrix Theatre located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $25 ($15 for students) and Pay-What-You-Can on 12/22/21. For reservations, call 855-585-5185 or go online.

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