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A Word or Two

Christopher Plummer launches a symphony of language using wisdom and witticisms as his instruments.

Christopher Plummer in his solo show A Word or Two at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.
(© Craig Schwartz)

As a child in Canada, the legendary actor Christopher Plummer spent his childhood devouring the fictional worlds created by books. He imbibed on the adventures of Lewis Carroll's Alice. As he got older, the works of Shakespeare shaped his talent as an actor. Now that he has reached his later years, he traces his past and accepts his future through the teachings of his favorite authors. He shares the joy of how the written world formed his life by celebrating the books and poems that enriched it in his solo show A Word or Two.

During this tour of Plummer's life history of reading, he pulls from countless authors, including W.H. Auden, Oscar Wilde, Vladimir Nabokov, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Coleridge, and Archibald MacLeish. As only the best storytellers can, he weaves in pivotal life and work experiences with passages from the books that shaped who he became as both a man and as an artist, including Rostand's Cyrano and MacLeish's J.B. There are also some works thrown in for his own personal joy and desire to show what tickles his fancy. Audience members are not required to understand all of the passages or know from where they were lifted; they can simply let the words wash over them, resulting in a theatrical experience of pure enjoyment.

Working with director Des McAnuff, Plummer remarkably breathes life into each character he explores. In a breezy 80 minutes, he unleashes the power of writing through the ages (and his own ages). Though every word is perfectly crafted, Plummer's personality, warm and jovial, still manages to make his asides seem improvised, which only adds to the evening's entertainment.

Composer Michael Roth's score enhances the mood, particularly in Plummer's more dramatic readings. Set designer Robert Brill has built a staircase out of books, calling to mind how the ascent of this legendary actor's life was paved with the written word.

A feast for the ears, A Word or Two will remind audiences why books hold such energy. And Plummer's passion for the texts he has chosen will likely turn a few bibliophobes into bibliophiles.