Richard and I saw *A Celebration of Agatha Christie* at Symphony Space on 12/6/17. It was part of their Selected Shorts series, which was created thirty years ago to create a place for actors to read aloud to an audience, usually short stories. Richard and I are both fans of Christie, and the program featured the indomitable Fran Lebowitz, so how could we pass it up?
The host was crime writer Megan Abbott, who said some cute things and kept it moving along. Lebowitz was, of course, the star. A few paraphrased quotes from her:
"I'm a fan. I'm not an expert or a scholar. So if there are experts or scholars in the audience who find fault with anything I say, I warned you."
"I was surprised to hear that she wrote only a hundred books, because I've read at least three hundred. I get tricked into buying a book again because it has a new cover. I read it again, and I enjoy it, and usually don't realize I've read it before until the end."
"I'm not your typical Christie reader, because I don't care who did it. I have no interest in who did it. Unlike in real life, where every waking moment is spent wondering who did it."
"OK. That's all I have to say. I have to leave, I have dinner reservations."
The rest of the program had four actors each reading a complete short story. Andrea Martin read "The Veiled Lady." I've seen her onstage a few times and of course am a big fan of her work on SCTV. She was cute, and warned us that her Hercule Poirot accent probably sounded like the great Belgian inspector had spent few summers in Croatia. The story itself was my favorite of the evening. Martin's reading of it was generally good, but she got a little mixed up here and there with her different voices. She would have been helped by more rehearsal time and/or a color-coded script.
The next actor was Rita Wolf. I didn't recognize her, though I saw her in Tony Kushner's *Homebody / Kabul* back in 2004. I think that was the first thing I ever saw at BAM. She read "The Lamp," a creepy, spooky story about a house haunted by the ghost of a boy who died there. She was one of the strongest readers, she has a lovely voice and beautifully put across the mood of the story.
Lois Smith was the next reader. I've been a fan of hers since I saw her in *How To Make an American Quilt,* later seeing her in *Minority Report* and going backwards to her performance in *Five Easy Pieces.* She does quite a lot of work onstage, but I've never gotten around to seeing her, so this was a treat. There was a piece about her in a recent New Yorker - - she talked about her film debut, in *East of Eden,* opposite James Dean. "It was his first movie, too," she said. How cute is that? Anyway, her performance was the high point of the show, she read "Miss Marple Tells a Story." She totally nailed the balance of English country charm and razor-sharp brilliance of Miss Marple. Could we have a full Miss Marple movie with Miss Smith, please?
The program ended with Hugh Dancy. Richard and I saw him in *Venus in Fur* a few years ago, and I know him from the TV series *Hannibal* and a handful of movies. He appeared to have a few rabid fans in the audience, there were some hoots and hollers that we hadn't heard for the other performers. The story he read was "Accident," and I wasn't so wild for it. He did a good job reading it, he was charming in his delivery, but it didn't really make much of an impact.