Among the things that lift monologuist Spalding Gray above his legions of imitators–including a wonderfully centered stage presence, articulate speech, and a knack for combining gravity and humor so as to avoid both self-importance and self-diminishment–what I find most interesting is his ability to stake a position that’s at once universal and self-absorbedly individual. The stories he tells in his programs of “poetic journalism” are unique to him, but the impulse they reveal–to impose order on random events no matter how much those events resist–is fundamental to human nature; Gray’s touching and droll performances explore that urge in a way that transcends the specifics of his entertainingly detailed stories. In his new work, Gray’s Anatomy–partly improvised from an anecdotal outline, like earlier in-progress pieces of Gray matter seen at the Goodman Theatre–the starting point is Spalding’s discovery of his deteriorating eyesight. This leads to ruminations on the relationship between cause and cure, spiced with anxiously funny accounts of doctors’ diagnoses, Native American healing rituals, Gray’s own echt-WASP lineage (one of his ancestors was the only man wounded in the Boston Tea Party), and much more–as well as broader speculations on time, age, destiny, and the link between the eye and the I. Goodman Theatre, 200 S. Columbus, 443-3800. Preview Tuesday, September 7, 7:30 PM. The preview is a benefit hosted by the Goodman’s Discovery Board: benefit tickets are $50 for the performance and preshow reception at 6:30 PM or $150 for the reception, show, and postperformance dinner (call 435-2770 to order benefit tickets). Tickets to other previews are $22. Opens Wednesday, September 8, 7:30 PM. Through September 12: Thursday, 7:30 PM; Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 2:30 PM. $20-$22.

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