Review by Craig Idlebrook
Short review: It was great. You missed it. Support your public radio.
(Boston) Kidding, kidding, but really what else is there to say? Take four well-crafted short stories of love, baseball and awkwardness, mix in three superb actors and stir. Watching the touring production of Selected Shorts is a powerful reminder that we are creatures of narrative. Whole societies are shaped by storytelling, be it a creation myth or an endearing belief of what a well-regulated militia looks like. People die for stories, people become president by telling stories. Without stories we might as well climb back up into the trees (unless you believe in the Christian creation story….see?).
So it makes you wonder why three great storytellers like the trio assembled on stage at the Huntington don’t rule the world. Each had their own style, which they nailed. Kate Burton stages her readings theatrically and you don’t want her to get real, Denis O’Hare tells his story like he’s relaying the highlights of yesterday’s ballgame over the water cooler, and Amy Ryan is like the girl in the back row of school who quietly and devastatingly interjects during class discussions to reveal the weirdness of the world. They all made everything go hush around the campfire.
The source material selected was quirky and beautiful. The short story is like a side project band for novelists, where they get to focus on one aspect of their craft or blow all their great writing chops in just a few pages, without worrying about meeting the advance or going to sign books at a Wal-Mart if everything works out well. There is no need to worry about what happens next in these stories for them, nor must they maintain the emotional arc. There is only the now, and they capture the now so beautifully that it lingers into a much later now, when you can still remember that now much better than any more recent now.
Maybe I should have just stuck with the opening paragraph. It was a beautiful moment, and it passed. You’re welcome to rend your clothes and weep for missing this short bit of literary heaven, but I think it would be excessive.