In last spring’s Interplay production of Lillian, a one-woman show based on Lillian Hellman’s autobiographical writings, playwright William Luce and performer Caitlin Hart not only did justice to Hellman, they captured something essential about her story telling. At the start of the play Lillian admonishes us, “The tales of former children are not to be trusted.” And so we agree to listen to colorful stories about herself, her relatives, and her lover Dashiell Hammett, accepting them not necessarily as truth but as the way Lillian likes to remember things. Hart conjures up, not doting pictures of a revered playwright, but living images of a woman at various stages of her life. We see Lillian as a child, hiding in a fig tree to avoid school, and as a still-frightened adult, drinking for three days before the premiere of her first play, The Children’s Hour. There’s plenty of Hollywood name-dropping and a recounting of Hellman’s heroic stand against the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, but equal time is given to her nanny back in New Orleans and to Hellman making butter when she lived on a farm. Alone onstage, Hart handles all the incarnations of Hellman and her entourage exceedingly well, sounding as soft and cool as Dinah Shore one moment and as harsh and demanding as Jason Robards the next. Through her, Lillian’s memories become our memories–and like Lillian, we can remember them any way we like. Interplay, Piper’s Alley, fourth level, 1608 N. Wells, 654-1055. Opens Friday, September 24, 8 PM. Through November 27: Saturday, September 25, 8 PM; Sunday, September 26, 3 PM; Wednesdays, 8 PM; Saturday, October 2 through November 27, 5:30 PM; Sunday, October 3 through 21, 7 PM; no show Wednesday, November 3 through 17, or Sunday, October 24. $20.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Greg Kolock.