John Lithgow Shares ‘Stories By Heart’ in One-Man Show

John Lithgow has been a transsexual, an alien, a dance-hating minister and a serial killer, and this month he plays himself as told through the point of view of P. G. Wodehouse, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Ring Lardner.
The one-man show is entitled “Stories by Heart” and Lithgow performs two short stories that he says greatly influenced his own career as a storyteller and actor. It’s also a tribute of sorts to his father Arthur Lithgow, a pioneer of American regional theater.
The production is intimately staged around a living room chair, which allows Lithgow to intertwine his performance with reflections about his personal life. He starts with “Uncle Fred Flits By”, a story that follows the escapades of Uncle Fred and Pongo. It’s a challenging piece for one man with 10 characters, including a hysterically expressive parrot, but Lithgow skillfully dances into each role with a surprisingly agile shuffle of his feet, a pouty smirk and shift in accent. It’s a story and performance that gave Lithgow’s ill father “the will to go on.”
Lithgow plays a yokel masterfully in the follow up piece “Haircut”, a darkly comic tale set in a Michigan barbershop. The story is told through the one-sided conversation that a know-it-all barber has with a silent customer and it expresses the melancholy of small town life and what ends up happening to the town prankster. Lithgow originally read the Lardner story at 12 and felt that there was a similarity to his own isolated experiences as the new kid in school, which ranged from brief moments of elation to being the victim of mean-spirited games like “Squirrel.” The entire show is seeded with the kind of rich details that make one-man shows worth watching, but you’ll have to go see the show to find out what squirrel means. Stories by Heart runs until February 13 at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles.

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  1. By far one of the finest actors that's ever lived. I would love to see this show.

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