Play reveres literature

They loved it before it even began. When Christopher Plummer took the stage for the Los Angeles premiere of his one-man play A Word or Two at the Ahmanson Theatre on Wednesday, the audience was already on its feet, clapping for a man whose career on stage and screen has spanned more than half a century.

The 84-year-old Plummer acknowledged the welcome with a smile. Plummer treated A Word or Two like an open conversation with the audience, which gave the sizeable Ahmanson a surprisingly intimate feel.

Plummer is no stranger to the Ahmanson, as he performed his Tony Award-winning one-man play Barrymore there nearly two decades ago. Though the venue, which seats 2,000 people, seems an odd choice for a solo show, aided by Robert Brill’s minimalistic set, Plummer plays to the larger setting with ease.

To hear Plummer speak is the real treat. Words roll off his tongue with a masterful elocution as he moves from prose to poetry, interspersing different languages and dialects into his soliloquies. It’s worth it to see A Word or Two just to hear Plummer put new life into old words.

The play does not just rely on Plummer’s delivery, though. There is both a broadness and a specificity to Plummer’s journey, which makes it relatable. He uses the universality of books to talk about his own struggles and joys.

Though A Word or Two can feel a little slow at first, somewhere between discussing religion and sharing his childhood in Toronto, a spell begins to build around Plummer’s words and the play starts to connect itself together, creating something that feels very personal.

It is easy to get caught on a phrase in A Word or Two and drift for a bit with an image, which creates a looseness that invites one to float awhile in a tangent — often a funny one.  Plummer might be 84, but he still understands a good joke.

A Word or Two does have some gaps. It would have been nice to hear more of Plummer’s own thoughts, especially on aging. Despite his age, he comes off as incredibly sprightly. It is no easy feat to go for 80 minutes straight with no intermission. But the production still plays as a chronology of his life and because of that it feels slightly cut short when he only briefly touches on his later years.

Still, it is a great ode to words. Plummer clearly has a deep love of language. Fittingly, the play was first created as a fundraiser for a library in Darien, Conn.


A Word or Two will be playing at the Ahmanson Theatre from Jan. 19-Feb. 9.