Larry Shue - obituary
Actor Larry Shue, Comedy Playwright
September 25, 1985
By Richard Christiansen
Larry Shue, killed in the crash of a commuter plane Monday, September 23, in Virginia, was an author of and actor in hit comedies whose career was building to a level of international fame.
He was about to appear as an actor in the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood, opening on Broadway in November. His comedy The Nerd had enjoyed a hit run in London in 1984. The Foreigner, his most successful comedy as a playwright to date, has had productions in New York, Los Angeles and Milwaukee, as well as England, and is scheduled to open outside Chicago Oct. 2 at the Forum Theater in Summit.
“He was so excited about having the show come into Chicago, and he was looking forward to seeing all his old friends there,” said John Dillon, artistic director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, where Mr. Shue, 39, had worked since 1977.
Born in New Orleans, Mr. Shue spent his early years in Eureka, Kan., where, he recently recalled, “I put on shows in the garage when I was 10 years old and charged a penny admission.”
When his family moved to the western Chicago suburbs, Mr. Shue attended Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn. His parents, Percy and Dolores Shue, still live in Glen Ellyn. He was graduated in 1968 from Illinois Wesleyan University, where he wrote his first full-length play, a children’s show.
After working as an actor at the Harlequin Dinner Theater in Rockville, Md., Mr. Shue moved to Milwaukee as an actor, turning to playwrighting in 1979 at Dillon`s suggestion.
“I write plays out of embarrassment, because I have a deadline and I can’t get out of it,” Mr. Shue, a shy man offstage, said. “ generally write them either about my personal experiences, or I find an interesting character and try to fill in the world around him.”
The Foreigner, which concerns a shy man who pretends to be a foreigner in order to conceal his lack of social graces, was based on Mr. Shue`s trip to Japan as a visiting artist.
“I found,” he recalled, “that I could be excused for the most extraordinary behavior because I was a foreigner and didn’t know any better. My Japanese friends would smile and say, `Ah, well, that is his way where he comes from. Isn’t he cute and adorable and charming?’ “
According to Dillon, “Larry often said he preferred being on stage to real life, because you could rehearse for the stage, and you couldn’t do that in real life. It was this joy of being on stage that he communicated so well to his audiences, as an actor and through his plays.”
Kary Walker, producer of Marriott’s Lincolnshire Theater near Chicago, who had been Mr. Shue`s producer at the Harlequin Dinner Theater, said, “He was one of the most delightful actors I ever worked with, a shy, unassuming man who took all his good fortune with grace and great modesty.”
In addition to The Nerd, which is set in Indiana, and The Foreigner, still running off-Broadway in New York, Mr. Shue`s works include the one-act comedy Grandma Duck Is Dead and Wenceslas Square, based on the journals he kept on his first visit to Europe, which was presented in 1983 at the Chicago Theater Project.
He recently had moved from Milwaukee, packing up his 1929 Buick and his collection of vintage phonograph records for relocation to a family home in Virginia.
Ahead of him as a writer were a pilot for a CBS comedy series and a Broadway musical based on the old The Honeymooners sketches.
He had originated the role of Joe Litko in David Mamet`s Lakeboat at the Milwaukee Rep in 1980, and the author dedicated the play to him.
A memorial service for Mr. Shue is tentatively set for Friday at the Milwaukee Rep.