Pamela Dillman opened this edition of Speaking of Stories with Alice McDermott’s “Enough,” the story of a woman with an appetite for life’s pleasures. The language was elegant, and as Dillman began, her tone was exacting. As she went on with a description of the protagonist as a young girl secretly licking the family’s ice cream dishes after clearing them from the table, however, her voice’s nuances came forth, as smooth, deep and satisfying as hot fudge, the playful twinkle in her eye the cherry on top. She brought to mind the stern teacher who you suspect just might let her hair down in the lounge and have a good laugh over a racy joke.
Following Pamela was her father, the distinguished actor Bradford Dillman, with “Taste,” by Roald Dahl-a deliciously drawn-out morality play portraying a wine-tasting challenge with surreally high stakes. It is no surprise that with his roles in 76 films and countless television performances, Dillman is a first-rate actor. But it was pure pleasure to sit back as he recounted this gripping tale. His voice has a deep, slightly gravelly quality with undertones of honey, and his ease with the story gave him complete ownership of it. The blend of these two masters-Dahl and Dillman-was truly the highlight of the evening.
These first-half stories were full of details and elaborate language that unfurled like graceful flowers on the tongues of the actors who read them. The second half was more conversational. Both of these pieces were essays about the process of cooking, which understandably calls for a loose approach. The pacing worked quite well, ending the evening with a relaxed, almost improvised feel.
Katie Thatcher read Anthony Lane’s “Look Back in Hunger,” which expounded on the author’s frustration with cookbooks. Her tone was fun and flippant, and her comic timing was nicely employed. She does a spot-on Julia Child impression, and is also not bad at channeling Martha Stewart, who is the target of Lane’s pique.
Henry Brown read a chatty essay by Anthony Bourdain titled, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This.” Filled with eye-opening and stomach-turning revelations about the practices of the professional kitchen, it made me glad I hadn’t. Brown has a wonderfully round and resonant voice and an easygoing manner that suited this story well.
It was an evening of delectable flavors and delights, which were savored long after the lights went up and the table was cleared.