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Plummer still delivers

State of the Arts


August 16, 2012
Longtime fans of the Stratford Festival should need no urging to come to the one man charmer, "A Word of Two," on this season's program.

They could never have forgotten the overpowering performances by Christopher Plummer, its author and performer, in such great roles he played at Stratford in past decades like Henry V, Hamlet, Benedick, Barrymore and Cyrano. They were thrilling performances that held audiences enthralled.

It was at the Stratford Festival Plummer lay the foundation for his career to win him recognition as one of the world's greatest actors, for his stage, film and TV roles, top awards and the fame that goes with them. But he has never forgotten Stratford and keeps making spectacular sentimental returns to the venue where his stardom developed — a classical repertory theater where the brilliant artistic leadership and the finest repertory helped him develop his greatest potential.

This summer, in his current reappearance, he retains his glow. His voice has mellowed elegantly with the passing years and his powers of expression remain undimmed. Moreover, the charm and grace of his polish as a performer and his emotional impact have reached a pinnacle of theatric art.

The underlying message of this monologue is the story of the influences that contributed richly to his life and career. He identifies them as "the joy and magic of language" with grateful acknowledgement to a wide diversity of dramatic, poetic, humorous, philosophical and even tragic texts and their authors. Stitched together in a narrative that seems to parallel both Plummer's life and Shakespeare's famous speech, The Ages of Man, they run the gamut of human experience and provide an inspiring insight to the actor's soul.

Many of the sources are popular and familiar like Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book," "Alice in Wonderland," Robert Service's poems about the Yukon, Dylan Thomas' and Emily Dickinson's poetry. But it is not just the selections, but the way Plummer has strung them together in a narrative of his development of personal, social and aesthetic values. And he does it with the personal magnetism of a masterful raconteur who grips his listeners' attention with a colorful and totally engaging conversation. While he does all the talking, it feels like a very personal conversation that hold's every listener's rapt attention.

Special moments of shared experience arise with a familiar quote. Others are moments of discovery with something new and significant, especially when it occasions a novelty of humor like the quickly passing definition of how to identify the phase when we pass into middle age or G.B. Shaw's expression of regret that he cannot deliver his own eulogy. Or Sam Goldwyn's confession he never thought he would see the day.

And as you realize a most enjoyable evening with a charming friend is at an end, you will feel you should go up, shake his hand and thank him for a terrific evening.

"A Word or Two" is presented in repertory at the Avon Theatre through Au. 26. For tickets and more information visit stratford

shakespearefestival.com or call 800-567-1600.

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