BWW Reviews: Cherished Actor Christopher Plummer Charms Ahmanson Audiences
"Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words..." sings Professor Henry Higgins to Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady...not so with Christopher Plummer whose intoxicating ode to language constitutes his original one-man show A Word or Two, now at the Ahmanson through February 9 only.
This Canadian born actor stands on the stage and talks about his life, which has been rather a charmed one. He does drink and been married three times, but nothing has ever really sullied or soiled him, or brought him to the brink of destitution. "It was a woman who drove me to drink, and I didn't have the decency to thank her." Language through literature has inspired him and elevated him to the highest level...since boyhood when his family would sit around and read aloud after dinner. So, in this play, the final chapters of Plummer's life, he does not merely talk about the events but punctuates them with verse from George Bernard Shaw, Faulkner, Archibald MacLeish, Shakspeare, Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas and Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock, among others. Their words have become part of his vocabulary, and like a good teacher, he shares them with us, indulges us...until we may fully savor their rich flavor. Words of wisdom about God, religion - "to all things clergic, I was allergic" - politics, life and death and man and his destructiveness. He facetiously refers to the vast wilderness of Quebec where he grew up, as "fast, racy, wild and bi-lingual." It is this sense of humor and self-deprecation that makes us feel closer to the actor.
He is a consummate artist, yet a man like the rest of us. He loves and appreciates what he does, but is quick to point out his flaws... like thinking his first stab at Hamlet onstage was such hot stuff. He is also vulnerable to the ravages of time - midlife is when "we stop combing and start arranging our hair". Old age? He opens the 80-minute piece with some verse from Lewis Carrol's Through the Looking Glass about an old-man "a-sittin' on a gate". He returns to this old man several times and concludes with it, as he feels his proximity to another world to come, like his mother, who looked upon death as a big adventurE. Plummer is quick to point out as well that as much as we have gained through modern technology, we have lost... namely, the proper use of language. We do not value words, nearly enough.
Lovingly directed by Des McAnuff, who allows him plenty of freedom, Plummer is brave, eloquent and still dashing at 84. He struts and skips and moves with panache around the intriguing set designed by Robert Brill, taking on a little Shakespeare with sword in hand or ravishing us with a little Cyrano. "I'm late for my botox" he humorously quips and so concludes A Word or Two, a little gem of wisdom, a love letter from one of our greatest living actors.