Who wouldn’t want to be read to by John Lithgow?
The multi-award-winning and much-lauded actor, famed for 3rd Rock From The Sun, Dexter, and most recently The Crown (he played Winston Churchill, brilliantly and originally, in Season 1), is as warm and commanding a stage presence as he is on screen.
When he introduces himself in his solo, Roundabout Theatre Company-mounted Broadway show Stories By Heart, we seem to be in line for a mix of memoir and metafiction. There’s a big chair, a stool, and a table. Intimacy beckons in this show Lithgow has himself written.
“Why do all of us want to hear stories?” he asks us. “Why do some of us want to tell them? Why, for that matter, are all of you even here tonight, huddling in the half-dark with a bunch of total strangers, staring at me for two hours, listening to me talk, talk, talk?”
Well, the answer to that question is that he’s John Lithgow, famous actor, and he will fill a Broadway theater because he’s John Lithgow, famous actor. Lithgow, though, most likely through humility and good grace, doesn’t answer the question in its most literal, obviously commercial terms. And that evasion comes to be telling: It’s not his first.
He talks instead about Arthur Lithgow, his father, “a restless and prolific man of the theater.” He taught and produced Shakespeare plays like Titus Andronicus. “That’s the one where the queen is tricked into eating meat pies made out of her own two dead sons.”
This was an eccentric family and crazy childhood, says Lithgow, and Arthur’s children always had a much higher opinion of their father than he did of himself. This fascinating remark is not elaborated upon: another evasion.