The pleasure of being read to is something mostly foregone once we leave childhood. But the cozy and comforting ritual of hearing stories read aloud is a rich experience, and as adults we would do well to seek it out from time to time. Those who attended Speaking of Stories on Monday, January 12, Nothing but Laughs, got every last drop of that pleasure, just as if they were children again.
Founded 15 years ago by accomplished artist and author Steven Gilbar, Speaking of Stories (SoS) is now capably directed by Maggie Mixsell and Teri Ball. While all unmistakably funny, the stories in this first show of 2009 were all performed in different styles. There was the delightfully dry delivery of Ensemble Theatre’s Rudy Willrich reading Ian Frazier’s “Coyote v. Acme,” in which Wile E. Coyote (of Roadrunner cartoon fame) attempts to sue the Acme Corporation for damages incurred while using the latter’s products. Then there was the talented young actor Devin Scott reading David Owen’s sharp and satirical first-person rant on airline regulations, “My Airline.”
A more complex and bittersweet memoir, “Revenge of the Lawn” by Richard Brautigan, was read with sympathetic grace by SoS veteran Charles de L’Arbre. And actor Jay Thomas, best known for his roles on Murphy Brown and Cheers, read the hell out of David Schickler’s “Jamaica,” a tale of domestic strife and joy with as many emotional twists and turns, highs, lows, and gentle moments of clarity as one could possibly expect from words on a page.
But without a doubt, the highlight of the evening, and wisely saved for the finale, was T.C. Boyle reading his own story, “Modern Love.” There is something compelling about hearing an author’s words in his own voice, and after graciously coping with an initial microphone malfunction, Boyle proceeded to take us along with him into his own imagination as he read his story of a young man smitten with a girl who can’t bring herself to get “that close” to him.
The show’s title, Nothing but Laughs, did not ring entirely true. Oh, there were laughs all right-amused snorts, gentle chuckles and full-on guffaws-but that’s not all. There were also moments of reflection, glimpses of beauty, and bolts of bizarre truth, the kind that help us to realize we’re not alone. On the contrary, we’re all in it-this human condition-together.