Rabbi Gregory Marx, whose late father was Gleason's head writer, has provided material for a new production by 1812 Productions.
When researching and creating To The Moon, a new play inspired by the career of Jackie Gleason, 1812 Productions of Philadelphia didn't have to search the planets for source material — just the suburbs.
For it is was in Maple Glen that the theater troupe came across a cache of unproduced scripts for Gleason's The Honeymooners back in the entertainer's TV heydays of the 1950s and 1960s. And the man who made this honeymoon all come together was none other than Rabbi Gregory Marx of Congregation Beth Or.
The rabbi's late father, Marvin, was head writer for the program featuring the rotund and protean entertainer, whose Saturday-night variety show was a TV staple. Rabbi Marx and his mother lent out the scripts to the theater company and its playwright, Jennifer Childs.
And what source material they offered: Marvin Marx and his writing partner, Walter Stone, helped create and shape the legendary figures of Ralph Kramden, Ed Norton and their wives, Alice and Trixie, who would form the core of The Honeymooners, one of TV's most famous series about working-class couples, spun off from Gleason's variety show.
"After meeting with Jen Childs and Scott Greer," her husband and a prominent cast member of 1812, "I realized that safekeeping the scripts in sealed vaults was doing them no service," writes the rabbi in the Playbill for the show. "Laughter gave them life."
He invited the 1812 couple over for a reading of the scripts and "the old jokes were being heard again and making people laugh."
The rabbi recalls his dad's involvment with Gleason and the show: "The greatest treat for my father was to write the words on Monday and see them aired nationally on Saturday night," which he did for some 20 years.
What does Marx anticipate with the show, receiving its world premiere here, and its unearthed inspirational material? "I hope it's not just a trip down memory lane for my generation, but an introdution to the glory days of TV for generations who never knew what live TV was like in the 1950s, when television was in its infancy."
To the Moon — describing Kramden's pugilistic threat to Alice when she irked him and challenged his machismo — runs for a month beginning Apil 16 in Old City.