Last year I saw John Lithgow perform a one man play ‘Stories by Heart’ at the Mark Taper Forum. The solo performance explored Lithgow’s relationship with his father, an itinerant thespian and theater director, and the stories he read Lithgow and his siblings. It was a tour de force, revealing Lithgow’s emotional range and his considered understanding of his craft. His lithe frame, expressively plastic face and manic energy made his embodiment of different characters appear effortless.
Lithgow’s memoir, “Drama: An Actor’s Education” was released yesterday. His solo show, compiled in the wake of his father’s death, appears to have been preliminary research for this reflection on a career which began long before his fame for “3rd Rock from the Sun” and Dexter. In an interview with Charles McGrath for the NYTimes book review, Lithgow reflected on the psyche of an actor by quoting Hamlet: “ ‘I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse myself of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.’ We all have our secrets and we all have our deceptions. Acting at its best is all about deceiving people, and this makes it all the more interesting to us.” With the rise of reality television and sub-par acting, Lithgow stands as a throw back to Broadway stage actors, careful practitioners of this age-old profession.