Don’t expect an ensemble of actors – he’s doing it in Gray style. He’ll be completely in charge of the proceedings, interviewing voluntary members of the audience. It’s called, naturally, “Interviewing the Audience,” and the set-up insures one-of-a-kind performances. He’ll probably sprinkle in the occasional mini-monologue, too.
Gray has been in several Hollywood movies, including “Kate and Leopold,” “Beaches,” “King of the Hill” and “The Paper.” But it’s as the man behind the desk – himself – in “Swimming to Cambodia,” that he’s most well known. During the film he never leaves the desk, never shares the stage, does not present a heartthrob image. But he’s riveting and compelling. It would be difficult to walk away from the screen before he’s finished.
He has described himself as Humpty Dumpty, continually pushing himself off the wall and then hopping down and putting himself back together again. In words, in front of an audience.
His knack for exposing – or re-creating – irony and hilarity in otherwise dark situations keeps his audience loyal. He calls his confessional entertainment a healing act. And so it might be.
“Interviewing the Audience” is a departure from his creative narcissism, turning the lens onto random other people. Mingling with the audience ahead of a show, Gray decides which willing cohorts he’ll call on-stage. He proceeds to do so. It is perhaps not even important whom he invites on stage; when asked the right questions or led down the right path, anyone is interesting. Some are even extremely interesting.
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Gray is no random interviewer, chancing upon occasional gold mines. He subjects his guests to the same sort of interrogation he turns on himself while preparing his own monologues. According to reviews, he knows where to start and when to stop. In between, he might even allow his guests to question him. (Most of them take him up on the offer, allowing for plenty of Grayesque anecdotes.)
Gray never scripts his monologues, carrying to the stage only an outline of key words. This frees him up to expand and change his act, never setting it in stone. By telling stories about his life, he’s revealing himself to himself. It’s probably not too far off the mark to suppose that his questions will do the same for whomever is on stage and maybe even the audience at large.
“Interviewing the Audience” is part of this summer’s Theatre Festival, “The Best of Chicago Theatre.” Opening on Monday and continuing throughout the week, a myriad of Chicago notables and niches will be represented in Beaver Creek. For more information, visit http://www.vilarcenter.org or call the Vilar Box Office at 845-TIXS.
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.