Theatre Review: ‘Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!’ at The Taylor Theatre

The lovely Taylor Theater at the Kenan Center in Lockport has reopened and is now the home of the Carriage House Players. This weekend David Lundy is performing at the Taylor Theatre as Harry Truman in a one-man show by Samuel Gallu, “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!”

. . .skillful and entertaining. . .

The title of the play comes from a conversation that took place during Truman’s whistle stop presidential campaign in 1948. During Truman’s speech, a supporter yelled out, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!” and Truman quipped, “I don’t give them hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.” Afterwards, “give ‘em hell, Harry” became Truman’s catch phrase.

Although this play has been performed by many companies since its premiere in 1975, it is mostly remembered as a show piece for Buffalo’s James Whitmore who appeared in both a theatrical and filmed version and was nominated for an Oscar for this role.

In WNY, David Lundy first performed “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry” at the New Phoenix Theatre in 2016. The production was a hit, and this mini-revival at the Taylor Theatre is a real treat.

Mr. Lundy is a top notch actor who is equally at home in comedy and drama, and he has appeared with virtually every local theatre company in town including the Irish Classical Theatre, Torn Space, and the Lancaster Opera House. Local theatre goers will be able to see him this summer in “The Tempest” at Shakespeare in Delaware Park.

Lundy’s work in “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” is impressive! This is a one man play that runs two hours, and he holds the audience’s attention throughout.

The script itself is a mixture of style and tone. Sometimes, there is a scene where President Truman is in the Oval Office talking to his distinguished guests. Other times, Truman breaks the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience. These are usually the most amusing passages of the program, as the dialogue is peppered with famous, pointed Truman remarks. Some of the most effective sections of the play are the re-enactments of Truman’s speeches.

The program covers a lot of subject matter including the economy, the military, the atomic bomb, politics, Joseph McCarthy, and a historical look at past presidents. Much of the subject matter feels very timely. Throughout the play, the audience gets a sense of who Harry Truman was — a plain speaking, truth telling, practically minded person who, throughout his terms in office, did his best to help those who needed help.

The evening’s highlight is at the end of Act I. It’s a heartfelt extended section about racism in the USA, and Mr. Lundy’s work is stirring and passionate. Throughout the entire program, however, Mr. Lundy brings great energy, high spirits, and an obvious love for the material to the stage. This is a skillful and entertaining production.

The play runs 2 hours and 15 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission.

“Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” runs until April 28, 2019 at the Taylor Theatre at the Keenan Center in Lockport. For more information, click