Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

“A Word or Two” – Christopher Plummer’s festival of language

Christopher Plummer in "A Word or Two" at the Ahmanson [photo: Craig Schwartz]

Christopher Plummer in “A Word or Two” at the Ahmanson [photo: Craig Schwartz]


I love Shakespeare. His words are spoken music, and the music of words – be they poetry or well written prose – has been central to me for as long as I can remember. Christopher Plummer, who for my contemporaries is mostly remembered as the movies’ Captain Von Trapp, was my first “Hamlet.” I was 9. It hooked me.

So, you can imagine my anticipation at hearing of “A Word or Two,” Plummer’s one-man show, telling his own story in the words of great poets and prose writers, Shakespeare included. Now at the Ahmanson, “A Word or Two” lives up to the hype. Born years ago at the Stratford Festival, it has become a signature piece for Plummer, and with reason.

Here is one of North America’s greatest actors using some of the greatest words written in the English language (and a few other languages as well) to paint the stage with one bright image after another. Like a great concert, the emotional upwelling (and the occasional urge to mumble the words along with him) proves as satisfying as the construction and art of his performance on the stage.

A true reflection of his world, and a passionate plea for preserving the sophistication and beauty of language, the piece was written and arranged by Plummer himself. Directed by Des McAnuff with an eye to keeping the whole thing from becoming a static lecture, and performed on Robert Brill’s artfully simple set, “A Word or Two” becomes a sort of whole-body experience.

And the words are as diverse as they are addicting, including bits from from Shaw, Shakespeare and Coleridge and Marlowe to Milne, Rostand, Auden and Leacock, among others. These intertwine with Plummer’s own story, from his northern Canadian roots through a lifetime of performance in a culture of the poetic.

Plummer’s energy throughout proves impressive. One forgets, for the interim, his 84 years, as his eyes glow in the sheer enjoyment of language. His purpose for this show, from the start, has been to remind people about the language which seems to be disappearing from our artistic conversation. It’s a solid argument, making it doubtful that anyone comes away from this piece satisfied with the truncated communication common in our Twittering world.

What: “A Word or Two” When: Through February 9, 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Where: The Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave. in downtown Los Angeles at The Music Center How Much: $20 – $90 Info: (213) 972-4400 or http://www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

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