In a word-packed weekend, celebrities gave voice to an outstanding selection of short stories at the 19th annual Selected Shorts: A Celebration of the Short Story. The theme for this year’s literary festival, produced by New York’s Symphony Space, was Unforgettable Journeys, and featured stories about travel, which explored adventures, humorous mishaps, and surprise encounters.Perched on a high chair on the nicely lit simple set, James Cromwell (Six Feet Under, Babe) kicked off the reading with Cary Grant’s Suit by Todd McEwen, a delightful analysis of how Grant’s gorgeous suit survived the countless physical abuses heaped upon it during Hitchcock’s classic film North by Northwest. Dubbing it “the most amazing suit in New York,” McEwen tells his comical story through the eyes of what is clearly an indestructible garment in a most entertaining manner.Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds, The Starter Wife, Glengarry Glen Ross) performed “The Man Who Blew Away” by Beryl Bainbridge. This is a bizarre, sometimes obtuse tale about a so-called proper Englishman, who happens to be cheating on his wife. Unexpected encounters unfold on his way to Corfu where he is to meet with his mistress Agnes. A mysterious nun tells him that “he has been chosen” causing him to speak Dutch which oddly he had never learned to speak. A very strange woman on the train with a thick, but indistinguishable accent, who punctuates her conversation with occasion slaps on his thigh, is another mysterious chance meeting. With poetic line such as “In time he saw the sky threaded with stars,” or “Agnes was aroused but not enough to be of benefit to him,” “The Man Who Blew Away” is a delightful “read.”Grey’s Anatomy star Kate Burton gave a rousing, physically expressive reading of “Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People” by Lorrie Moore. This is a very funny, yet poignant tale about the adventures and misadventures of a mother and daughter vacationing in Ireland. A charming road story, the well written text is sprinkled with disagreements and confrontations, mostly wrapped in love. Moore’s description of kissing Ireland’s famous Blarney Stone was particularly funny as her mom struggles to get into the awkward, almost painful position necessary to actually kiss the stone. After observing the blobs of lipstick and spit on the stone, mother comments: “It seems quite unhygienic for a public attraction.” Other very amusing passages include mother’s solution to her daughter’s recurring bathroom needs: “Go behind the stone wall” and her advice regarding her boring marriage: “Be brave dear and reap the benefits of inertia.”The Unforgettable Journeys readings continued through last weekend with performances by Alex Baldwin, Fionnula Flanagan, Susanna Thompson, Rob Morrow, and Isaiah Sheffer. In these times of sound bites, texting, and the abuse of the English language in general, this literary series reminds us that the art of writing exquisitely constructed prose is alive and well and can be savored every year at the Getty.
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