Spalding Gray is charming and cruel. He doesn’t look charming and cruel; charming and cruel is tall and handsome and strong, in the Bronze Aryan manner of a Calvin Klein model. With his smallish build, his surprised eyebrows, and those plaid back-to-school shirts he seems to want to turn into a trademark, Gray evokes something more like smart and whiny. More like the WASP Woody Allen somebody once called him. But looks, as somebody else once said, can be deceiving. Sitting behind a desk, unreeling the psychic picaresque that is Monster in a Box–a monologue ostensibly about a novel he cant finish–Gray is indeed both unexpectedly charming and disturbingly cruel. His descriptions of everything from an American student’s nervous breakdown in Nicaragua to his own AIDS panic in Hollywood are marked by a detachment so complete so cool so self-reflexive it’s scary. And also funny. He’ll be giving a single performance this weekend to benefit the Goodman Theatre’s Discovery Board, a group of philanthropists-in-training who fund new work at the Goodman. Goodman Theatre, June 8. Saturday, 7:30 PM (preceded by a reception at 6:30 PM). $50.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Hali Breindel.