John Lithgow

‘STORIES BY HEART’: John Lithgow. Photo: Joan Marcus

 

 

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JOHN LITHGOW: STORIES BY HEART
Adapted & performed by John Lithgow
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Through March 4, 2018
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street
(212-719-1300), www.RoundaboutTheatre.org

 

By David NouNou

John Lithgow pays homage to his late actor/producer father Arthur Lithgow in John Lithgow: Stories by Heart. Mr. Lithgow recalls how his father used to tell him bedtime stories. Young John was eight at the time and he would sit with his three siblings and listen to his dad. He told them stories that regaled them as well as opened their minds and their imaginations. He told these stories from a collection of short stories that acts as the family bible of tales that has been saved from one generation (Mr. Lithgow, Sr.) to the current Mr. Lithgow.

The show centers around two stories: Act I focuses on Ring Lardner’s “Haircut,” a tale about a gossiping barber in a small rural town and the consequences of gossiping. Act II focuses on P. G. Wodehouse’s “Uncle Fred Flits By.” Uncle Fred, a nobleman from the suburbs, comes to London to visit his nephew, Pongo. On this visit, Uncle Fred takes Pongo on a tour of a former estate that now has been sold and intermingles with the current inhabitants and shows them a comeuppance.

In the process of narrating both stories, Mr. Lithgow portrays both the barber as well as Uncle Fred deliciously. The barber tale is told for pure entertainment with a moral twist. Uncle Fred, on the other hand, was told to Mr. Lithgow Sr. by Mr. Lithgow Jr. in 2002 to snap him out of depression after a near-fatal surgery at the age of 86. This was a tale that helped Mr. Lithgow, Sr. snap back to life and helped him to find laughter again.

John Lithgow is a consummate actor who has been acting on the New York stages since his Broadway debut in 1973 in David Storey’s The Changing Room, winning his first of two Tony Awards. Mr. Lithgow has been a movie star with two Oscar nominations thus far and recently won an Emmy Award for playing Winston Churchill in Netflix’s “The Crown.” Mr. Lithgow is a pro who always delivers the best.

This venture is no exception. It is a labor of love and it is evident by the reverence Mr. Lithgow shows his father. He fills the stage with his presence. However, as a Broadway show, it lacks the substance to sustain an evening of entertainment. Both segments tend to ramble and could have been edited to perform both tales in one enjoyable act. As it stands, with two acts it stretches and loses impact. Daniel Sullivan directs the episodes tightly, but unfortunately they are not edited enough. The intentions are good but the breadth is too minimal to sustain a two-act show.

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published January 15, 2018
Reviewed at January 14, 2018 press performance.

 

 

John Lithgow

‘STORIES BY HEART’: John Lithgow. Photo: Joan Marcus

 

John Lithgow

‘STORIES BY HEART’: John Lithgow. Photo: Joan Marcus

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