On Tuesday night, some friends and I got to see actors Kathleen Chalfant and David Strathairn perform in a friend’s loft in Soho. The gathering of about 25 people was the result of a winning bid some of us had made at a benefit auction for New York’s Epic Theatre Ensemble back in January. (The hammer price was $4,400.) Celerie Kemble, Boykin Curry and actress Stephanie March were among the crowd, and Stephanie told me about one of her upcoming films, a comedy directed by Ricky Gervais. “It’s called This Side of The Truth and it takes place in a world where lying and sarcasm don’t exist,” explained the actress, who was dressed down a tank top, shorts (Old Navy, as it turns out), and Louboutin wedges. “Ricky [who also stars] plays this loser guy who discovers lying. When he meets me, he uses this discovery to his advantage,” she said. “I only had about two lines, but who would say no to Ricky Gervais?”
As we balanced plates of Vietnamese food on our laps, Kathleen and David sat perched on bar stools as they read their scenes together—one was a Burns and Allen sketch, and another was from Noel Coward’s Private Lives. Each also read a monologue: Kathleen’s from Wit addressed her heroine’s stage four cancer, and David’s, from a book of Edward R. Murrow speeches, was on the topic of war. “I’m not reading something from Good Night and Good Luck,” said the actor, whose salt and pepper hair and wire-rimmed eyeglasses made him look particularly professorial. “I chose this one because I feel it is particularly apropos to our current situation,” he explained.
Fortunately, the mood lightened up afterward, and both actors lingered to chat a bit. David headed back to his house upstate and Kathleen returned to New Haven, where she’s currently in rehearsals for the Yale Rep’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s trilogy Passion Play. Depending on the night, she’ll play Queen Elizabeth, Adolf Hitler or Ronald Reagan. Quite a stretch from Gracie Allen.