John Lithgow: Stories by the Heart
Adapted and Performed by John Lithgow
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Roundabout Theatre Company
January 2, 2018
💉💉 out of 5.
Here we are at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd on a cold Tuesday night. The set is a beautiful, rich, paneled library with a large wooden chair center stage and a smaller chair with table on the left side of the stage. Beautiful – but that’s it. Then John Lithgow enters. We are all applause; we are applauding, of course, for a career that has given us one of our best moments on stage, television and the silver screen. He comes out to give us just a bit of intro about her early years and the love he had for story telling as a young boy. He and his siblings were read stories every night and they loved them. It defined them as a family.
Then he tells us two stories. “The Haircut” is the story that fills act one and one other story, “Uncle Fred Flits By” fills the second act. It feels like he is tucking us into bed and reading us some of his favorite stories. He does all the funny voices and makes the faces and is quite good at both – of course. But the stories are very small and quiet and there is nothing to catch the eye and the stories last well over 45 minutes each. I kept waiting for the big pay-off or purpose of choosing those particular stories – but I was underwhelmed. After the first story, I just asked myself, why in the world did he just spend 45 minutes telling us that story? Why? Sitting back in row N watching one man read/tell two stories to me was just asking an awful lot of my attention – likely a combination of my lack of experience in being read to – and my inundation with the visuals when it comes to story telling.
To be honest some of this bedtime story telling achieved the predicted affect in lulling me to sleep – but I didn’t damn it! The idea that later in life he returned to his aging/ailing parents and read the same stories back to them to bring the spark back in their face was really quite touching – but the stories meant very little to me. It was a sweet night – -but the night could have been so much more!