POST: 'John Lithgow: Stories by Heart' - Stories help our imaginations soar

What its About.

John Lithgow reenacts two stories from the Teller's Tale from his childhood - "Haircut" and "Uncle Fred Flitz By."

What I experienced.

John Lithgow, for those of you who don't know, is starring as Winston Churchill in Netflix's The Crown (and Barney Stinson's father in How I Met Your Mother.) 

I find it interesting to go see shows with famous actors even if I'm not familiar with them just to have that experience that I saw this person during my lifetime. 

The show Stories By Heart is personal to Lithgow, as he acts out two stories - not plays - from a 60 year old, 1,500 page book that his father would read to him and his siblings when they were children. These stories and how his father told them to little John was what inspired him to pursue acting. John's father was an actor himself, putting on Shakespeare festivals out in Ohio.

John asked the audience three important questions.

Why do people wanna hear stories?

Why do people wanna tell stories?

Why are we all here in this theater?

I couldn't really answer it myself. I wasn't expecting to hear stories. I thought this was a play...

In the first act, John plays the barber, Whitey, who just randomly starts to tell his customers about his younger years. He had his blazer off and the white shirt he had on had the lights bouncing off of him - it was really messing with my eyes. I just wanted to close my eyes and doze off. I honestly tried, but every time I told myself, "okay, Julia you're gonna actually fall asleep", there would be certain lines that got me hooked back onto the scene. 

Right away, Whitey mentions his old friend Jimmy is dead. Jimmy was one of those greaser goons that liked to cause trouble. There was a girl named Julie that had a crush on Doc, the local doctor. Jimmy heard the news and made a fool out of Julie - he called her up, pretending to be Doc, and lured her to Doc's office and had a bunch of friends chase her out of his office screaming horrible chants. Paul Dickson, who had his own crush on Julie, wanted to protect Julie, so he killed Jimmy claiming it was a hunting accident. 

Even though this was no traditional play I kept my ears open. Every second I was enticed to hear what was gonna happen next. 

During the second intermission, John tells us about the last two to three years of his father's life. His father's health was fading and had to get surgery that was supposed to help him get better. There was only a 50% chance of survival. Arthur made it through, but John claimed that the surgery took away Arthur's spirit. While he was taking care of his sick parents back in Ohio, he stumbled upon the Teller's Tale. His father asked to be read "Uncle Fred Flitz By."

Before he continues, he turns to the audience and says, "Pay attention to the moment an 80 year old gains his spirit back."

As he starts to tell the story, John is just sitting on a cozy chair. The story is set in England, so he uses all kinds of British accents for each character. Within the first few minutes he gets up and goes to a table and sets the book down, speaking the exact words from the book. 

Uncle Fritz was some loon that was too much to handle for his nephew, Pongo. Fritz had a wacky response to everything and even though I wasn't laughing as much in any other show I've been to I kept thinking to myself, "wow that was a clever clapback."

I could see why John wanted to tell these stories to the public. Even if this isn't the right answer to the questions from above, I believed stories are meant to take us away from the pains of life. We feel better when we hear stories. I would always beg my parents to tell me a story when I was afraid of falling asleep or when I had a bad experience.

Stories help our imaginations soar. We see how John sees these stories through the way he acts them out.

See it.


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