William Shatner in Shatner's World
(© Joan Marcus)
William Shatner in Shatner's World
(© Joan Marcus)
William Shatner displays a curious mix of self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement in Shatner's World: We Just Live In It, his entertaining one-man show currently playing a limited Broadway engagement at The Music Box before launching a brief national tour. The actor demonstrates a willingness to laugh at himself, thereby allowing the audience to laugh along with him, while still recognizing the value of his varied and quite impressive career.

Shatner is, of course, best known as Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek series, and the movie franchise that followed. Several of his stories touch upon this fact, whether it's a ribald comment made by fellow Star Trek cast member George Takei at Shatner's Comedy Central roast to Shatner's interactions with NASA and the space program. However, the actor doesn't provide the kind of tell-all insider dish about the show and its cast that may be hoped for by some audience members.

The solo piece is structured as a collection of anecdotes, loosely strung together. At times, the narrative drags, Shatner stumbles over some of his pre-written dialogue, and certain jokes fail to land. But more often than not, the performer scores with a genuinely funny tale.

He touches upon his career highlights, including his Emmy-winning role as Denny Crane on both Boston Legal and The Practice. But it's often the lesser-known details of his life and career that provide some of the more interesting stories. Among these are the early influences that burlesque comedians had on his understanding of comedy; understudying -- and having to go on for -- Christopher Plummer in the title role of Shakespeare's Henry V; and starring in the critically panned but somehow long-running Broadway play, The World of Suzie Wong.

Shatner also regales the audience with stories about his love of horses, meeting Koko the gorilla, and much more. But while he shares a number of details about his life, he refrains from getting overly personal. He does, however, maintain a conversational tone throughout the evening, which sets the audience at ease.

Accompanying his tales are video clips and still photographs that are projected onto a large, circular screen that dominates Edward Pierce's spare scenic design. Shatner even performs a musical number at the end of the show, "Real," which was written for him by Brad Paisley.

And while it's doubtful that the song will convince anyone of Shatner's musical prowess, the tune's blend of tongue-in-cheek commentary and earnestness makes for a fitting conclusion to Shatner's World.