BWW Review: AN EVENING OF CLASSIC LILY TOMLIN at Popejoy Hall
Weaving together autobiographical stories, interaction with the audience, a multimedia experience, and skits with classic characters we all know and love, An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin is Lily Tomlin at her best. Now 78 years old, the actress and comedienne is touring the country with her one woman show, giving audiences a glimpse into the characters who made her famous, and all the while updating them for present day. Instead of being trapped in the time period in which they were created, her characters have evolved: Edith Anne sits onstage talking about her sister having a cell phone, and Earnestine takes on healthcare.
With a show that lasts an hour and a half, Lily Tomlin is able to remind audiences why her career has been so long-lasting. Her self-deprecating humor is clear as she takes on topics of reality shows ("Before you get a reality show, they should prove they have been in touch with reality at some point."), health care ("An apple a day keeps the doctor away. So does being poor."), gay marriage ("If all us homosexuals start marrying like heterosexuals, it could be a slippery slope. What's next, monster truck rallies?"), and life in general ("One of the most valuable tools we have is an ability to delude ourselves.") in a way that leaves the audience laughing continuously throughout the show.
Along with modernizing characters who could potentially seem dated without it, the multimedia experience itself helps to keep Tomlin's material fresh. A screen was placed onstage with Tomlin, showing clips from prior appearances of her characters. After the brief reintroductions, Tomlin launched directly into her current skits, allowing her characters to tackle present-day issues. These skits were intertwined with personal stories from Tomlin's life, including recounting a time when six-year-old Tomlin wished to be her second grade teacher, Mrs. Sweeny's, best friend while a family photograph was projected onto the screen behind her.
Each of the skits or stories from Tomlin's life were woven together to form an overarching story thanks to the clips being shown on screen and the use of different colored spotlights depending on who-which character or Tomlin herself-was currently speaking. By doing this, the entire show flowed perfectly, without any confusion as to what was going on. Staging the show in this way allowed Tomlin to successfully integrate all of her characters together into a performance full of laughter and heart.
After the scripted part of the show, the interactive aspect of An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin continued with an audience Q and A session. Whether it was giving an upcoming comedian advice, suggestions on how to handle the current political atmosphere, or reconnecting with a friend, these questions and answers helped to make the show a true conversation between Tomlin and her audience. It also continued to exhibit the type of performer and comedienne that Tomlin is - generous, honest, and absolutely hilarious, even without a script.
Tomlin will be continuing her cross-country tour of An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin through November 15, 2017. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
Image credit: Popejoy Hall