Thursday, August 02, 2012

Stratford 2012 - A Word or Two

The stage is set with a desk and chair, a director's chair, a small podium, and a winding staircase of books that cantilevers over the stage like an impossible sculpture; in the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay, toppling to the skies. The lights come up on an elderly gentleman sitting at the foot of this literary tower, and the words come forth.

This is supposed to be a one-man show: Christopher Plummer, actor (everything from Hamlet to The Sound of Music to Star Trek VI) and director, but it is not really just one man there. He is in the company of Lewis Carroll, George Bernard Shaw, William Shakespeare, A.A. Milne, Stephen Leacock, Ogden Nash, Emily Dickinson, Christopher Marlowe, Oscar Wilde, the Bible, Archibald MacLeish, and many others. He tells us of his love for words, for language, for sharing the mysteries of life and longing and love through the words; of growing up in Montreal and of his family that read aloud after dinner when he was a boy, and discovering the stage and theatre. In his memoir, In Spite of Myself, Mr. Plummer is very candid about his faults, his excesses, and his ambitions, and he brings them with him to this tale as well. He's unfailingly honest, wistful, rueful, joyful, and all through his own words and those of writers he loves.

Even though it was in the Avon Theatre, a converted movie house that seats over a thousand people, it is an intimate performance, and even though I was in the fourth row center, I knew he was reaching and touching the people in the back row of the balcony. Not because he's that powerful an actor -- although he is, and a single raised eyebrow from him carries for miles -- but because what he was sharing was so deeply felt. And it should; this is a performance that he created and produced on his own and has toured with before. This is a labor of love.

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