John Lithgow: Stories by Heart
John Lithgow: Stories by Heart
70

John Lithgow: Stories by Heart NYC Reviews and Tickets

70%
(269 Reviews)
Positive
60%
Mixed
30%
Negative
10%
Members say
Great acting, Slow, Disappointing, Entertaining, Indulgent

About the Show

Roundabout Theatre Company presents the Broadway debut of Tony and Emmy Award winner John Lithgow's solo piece, an exploration of storytelling full of personal insights.

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Member Reviews (269)

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50
Zzzzzzz, Why?, Disappointing, Boring

See it if You are fond of John Lithgow. Sweet just very lightly tapped story about his parents.

Don't see it if You have anything better to do with your time. Read more

50
Disappointing, Slow

See it if You are a fan of John Lithgow, one man shows and old stories.

Don't see it if You aren't interested in short stories that aren't very exciting. This would have fared better in a smaller more intimate venue

Critic Reviews (52)

The New York Times
January 11th, 2018

"To begin with, give Mr. Lithgow a sound effects award. And then give him one for spiritual effects, because 'Stories by Heart' is delightful: illuminating the stories, uplifting us...Though golden enough for any nostalgist, 'Stories by Heart' is neither soporific nor cute. For starters, the two stories that Mr. Lithgow recites are superb, outlandish and, in very different ways, hair-raising."
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Time Out New York
January 11th, 2018

"It is hard to imagine who, aside from John Lithgow, could fashion a Broadway show from a pair of bedtime stories and not make everyone fall asleep. Yet there the actor is in 'Stories by Heart'...with nothing to keep us on the hook but his masterly cultivation, confidence, and warmth...It is a pleasant way to stay put on a winter’s night...Likable though the stories themselves may be, the heart of this show is in their telling."
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New York Magazine / Vulture
January 11th, 2018

"There’s a healthy helping of nostalgia in there, but 'Stories by Heart' is full of smart, good-natured charm. It’s like listening to the reminiscences of a favorite uncle...The stories themselves are, excitingly, not what you might expect...Lithgow has picked material that undeniably showcases his virtuosity. His accents are impeccable, his impressions side-splittingly absurd, and his physicality both playful and precise...Pure entertainment of the most ancient and appealing kind."
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The Hollywood Reporter
January 11th, 2018

"Despite the performer's estimable talents, 'John Lithgow: Stories by Heart' smacks mainly of self-indulgence. The charms of Lithgow's chosen stories prove only intermittent...Ironically, the most resonant moments of come not from the stories Lithgow recites but rather the personal anecdotes he shares. However, those are not enough to compensate for the thinness of this gussied-up literary reading, which seems out of place in a large theater charging steep Broadway prices."
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Entertainment Weekly
January 11th, 2018

"This is ultimately a basic piece of theater that never really digs below its cozy, slightly drab surface...As an actor, Lithgow does brilliant work here...But the play itself is clunky and a smidge too earnest for its own good...His anecdotes about growing up and growing old feed into stories that hardly deal with those subjects...Indeed, when taking the play as a whole, the inclusion of these literary classics can almost feel like a distraction from Lithgow’s own performance of memoir."
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Variety
January 11th, 2018

"Lithgow is the most personable of performers...The two stories are charming examples of the ones that his dramatically disposed father recited to his audience of spellbound children...'Haircut' is a deceptively folksy yarn...'Uncle Fred Flits By' is a typically droll Wodehouse story...It’s not a typical Broadway audience’s cup of tea. But it takes on richer meaning when Lithgow tells us that it was his father’s favorite story, and the one he read to his parents when they were old and ill."
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The Wall Street Journal
January 11th, 2018

"John Lithgow reads two of his favorite short stories out loud and tells us how he came to know them. That’s all there is to 'Stories by Heart,' and it’s more than enough. Rarely have I spent so entertaining a night at the theater—or witnessed so touching a tribute to a departed parent...I rather wish that Daniel Sullivan, the director, had suggested that he tone down the comic effects a notch or three. On the other hand, Mr. Lithgow is so naturally funny that he gets his laughs anyway."
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The Observer
January 16th, 2018

“An evening of erudition, magic, and joy...Staging by Sullivan is minimal, but it moves Lithgow in and out of superbly lit spaces that illuminate the spirit of the star’s imagination and accent the moods of his interpretative skills. The rest is up to the man who dominates the proceedings...leaving his spectators spellbound...The joy of the production is not really the stories, but the passion and gusto with which Lithgow tells them.”
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Deadline
January 11th, 2018

"Daniel Sullivan directed this long-developing show, and it’s fleet. But Lithgow isn’t well served by the design...As someone who loves the short story form, I know one reader’s Wodehouse is another’s I.L. Peretz, one reader’s Cheever is another’s Pynchon. Lithgow is deeply impressive in sharing two wildly different examples. I wasn’t sold on the first, but he had me at Pongo."
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The Washington Post
January 11th, 2018

"In the delightful 'John Lithgow: Stories by Heart,' an actor known for great intelligence and range devotes two hours on a Broadway stage to advancing that reputation...Offers new vigor for a form that many actors would like to master but few manage to successfully conquer: the one-person show. Under Dan Sullivan’s adroit direction, Lithgow does...If I were to compare this evening with others in the genre, Lithgow’s would land somewhere in the top dozen."
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New York Daily News
January 11th, 2018

"Most noteworthy is this Tony- and Emmy-winner’s easygoing charm, along with his talent for creating distinct voices and visages for characters...Lithgow’s show is personal and has heart. But it also has a weak pulse. Long story short: The two-hour piece, directed for the Roundabout by Daniel Sullivan, makes for a slim evening...The show was at its best between the works of fiction, when Lithgow revealed his own true heart and why stories became family treasures."
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AM New York
January 11th, 2018

"As much as one can appreciate Lithgow’s elated and elastic theatricality, generous and open spirit and passionate advocacy for the arts, it is not easy to fall in love with the show — or even sit through it without zoning out...When Lithgow chats with the audience and talks about his parents and childhood, he is engaging and delightful. But then the fun stops and story time begins...Perhaps the show would work better in a smaller venue — or as an audiobook."
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NY1
January 11th, 2018

“Lithgow is a wonderful actor and clearly excels in the art of storytelling...Unfortunately, his labor of love requires an intimate setting...And while there’s nothing wrong with the storytelling, on that big Broadway stage, it’s the stories themselves that get a little lost in translation...The stories obviously hold special meaning for Lithgow...It all just came across as an exercise in self-indulgence...As an acting lesson, Lithgow, with his warm folksy charm does not disappoint.”
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Theatermania
January 11th, 2018

"Unfortunately, as a theatrical work, 'Stories by Heart' yields mixed results...Lithgow shows his exquisite acting talent as he becomes Lardner's gossipy barber. Yet halfway through, the story itself fails to grab hold with sufficient theatrical interest, and the performance loses steam...Despite Lithgow's acting prowess and the nostalgic appeal that 'Stories by Heart' promises, director Daniel Sullivan hasn't whipped things up enough to make the show into engaging theater."
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Lighting & Sound America
January 12th, 2018

“Lithgow is at home at the American Airlines Theatre, making the auditorium seem half its size with the sheer mastery of his art...There's no fireplace on John Lee Beatty's attractively paneled set, but there might as well be, so inviting is Lithgow's manner, so warm his wit...A tribute to the fundamental joy of storytelling...It's part memoir, part literary reading, and all entertainment...And what stories they are..Director Daniel Sullivan handles the proceedings with impeccable sensitivity."
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Talkin' Broadway
January 11th, 2018

"There is no doubt that 'Uncle Fred Flits By' is the raison d'être for the evening. It is the perfect marriage of story and performer, and it comes mighty close to justifying those aforementioned Broadway prices...Less successful is the Lardner piece that fills most of Act I...While the tidbits Lithgow shares about his family and his presentation of 'Uncle Fred Flits By' are decidedly entertaining, these are not enough to justify the evening."
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Broadway News
January 11th, 2018

"Lithgow proves to be a congenial host and raconteur...Diverting enough, but the evening itself doesn’t exactly catch fire...The personal family history was in many ways the most fascinating story thread of all. I would like to have seen Lithgow share more depth and detail of that history...Lithgow’s formidable acting prowess ensures that 'Stories By Heart' is a largely heartwarming evening that charms within its modest conventions, even though it occasionally falls short of compelling."
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TheaterScene.net
January 15th, 2018

“In 2008, John Lithgow ‘cooked up’ a pretty ‘slapdash affair’ of a one-man show which he appeared in for a number of Monday nights at Lincoln Center, before taking it on the road in the intervening years--to, he calculates in a story in the New York Times, about 35 different cities. In the process, he has honed it into a first-rate piece of theater that showcases his inestimable skills as an actor and performer, even as it comes to focus on two particular stories, told apparently in their entirety.”
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Theater Pizzazz
January 11th, 2018

"What a gift!...It’s not just physical prowess that makes Lithgow’s performance beguiling. Pacing and emotional truth inform his creation of a small-minded barber chronicling the exploits of the town clown...Lithgow is hilarious as all four participants in the foray and as Fred, stirring the pot...All are uproariously exaggerated, and Lithgow has a ball savoring their rollicking reality. So do we."
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CurtainUp
January 14th, 2018

"Lithgow is charming and a physically as well as vocally masterful storyteller...But whether two recreated remembrances of stories his father told to him at his siblings when they were young, is really a theatrical outing worth the high price of admission depends on whether you share Lithgow's enthusiasm for this type of storytelling...Admirable as Lithgow's morphing into the various personas is, I was much more engaged by his personal recollections."
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Front Row Center
January 16th, 2018

“Lithgow takes on a variety of literary characters and takes time out to reveal himself...A relaxing, and tame, two hours. Lithgow is always colorful, but here he is coloring well within the lines...‘The Haircut’ is overly theatrical...Lithgow’s pantomime...overwhelms the storytelling...Lardner’s gritty story falls flat. ‘Uncle Fred Flits By’, on the other hand, is a totally enjoyable piece of escapism. Lithgow, transforms into ten different characters, including a young girl and a parrot."
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Stage Buddy
January 11th, 2018

"I’d have believed the man could fly if he told me so. He’s thrilling...It’s heavenly to see Lithgow work, primping and fluffing and chopping and snipping and, really, dancing his way through the murky tale...Lithgow blows them each a kiss; tears in our eyes, we hear the lovely refrain, 'I hope you feel better.' In that moment the entire audience gasps with recognition; Lithgow’s both at his parent’s bedside and directly in front of us. He’s family. He’s breathtaking. I’ve never felt better."
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Front Mezz Junkies
January 17th, 2018

“Sweet, engaging, sentimental, and charming...but also a bit too easy and dull on the ears, mind, and heart...This lovely performance celebrating the art of acting as well as paying homage to the beauty of storytelling almost put me to sleep with its soothing charm and pleasant wit. Lithgow glows with a comforting personality, sharp wit, and winning smile, but for this theater junkie, I guess I need a more compelling reason to turn up at a Broadway theatre.”
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T
February 19th, 2018

"The two short stories seem an odd choice: neither one seems appropriate for children; neither is particularly funny; and neither seems to capture the attention of the audience...What is spellbinding is Mr. Lithgow’s stories about his father (whom he adored) and how he influenced Lithgow’s life and career in the theatre. The craft of story-telling overshadows the choice of stories and the evening is enjoyable and memorable...John Lithgow is a joy to watch and a joy to listen to."
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C
January 11th, 2018

"An extended look into the power and joy of listening to great writing -- especially when handled with true expertise by one of our foremost stage performers...I might have been just as content to hear Lithgow spend all two hours onstage regaling us with memories. But I can’t really quibble with the bulk of program...A tour-de-force that, among other things, makes you wish the actor was available for private reading of bedtime stories."
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Theatre's Leiter Side
January 17th, 2018

“Lithgow's delectable performance deploys simple mannerisms, impeccable…accents and voices, and overt mugging...This is a character actor at the top of his form, his personal likeableness enhancing the appeal his long career has established...John Lithgow…doesn't always get the opportunity to use all the weapons in his arsenal. Even though the stories he tells in 'John Lithgow: Stories by Heart' are not precisely cream of the crop they serve ably to show what he's been hiding.”
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DC Theatre Scene
January 14th, 2018

"Lithgow doesn’t just read the two stories; he performs them, bringing to life each character using an impressive arsenal of voices, elastic facial expressions and other tricks of the acting trade...Lithgow’s well-told personal anecdotes are what provide much of the heart...As enjoyable as his spiced-up performance is, it sometimes had the effect of upstaging Wodehouse’s language. It’s true that many lines got terrific laughs, but some of Wodehouse’s wit is best appreciated on the page."
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Times Square Chronicles
January 13th, 2018

"In both of these stories, the humans are into using others for their own mirth. I don’t find this funny, nor is it something I want to watch...The stories are masterfully told, but going back to Lithgow’s first question 'Why do all of us want to hear stories?,' the reason is to learn, to become emotionally connected and to be entertained, and I was none of these. I am a huge Lithgow fan, but I would rather see him take on a character and dig deep...than tell stories that hurt my heart."
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The Guardian (UK)
January 11th, 2018

"It is both a pleasure and a disappointment to find him doing something as aggressively ordinary as this...Why would a leading non-profit like the Roundabout devote a Broadway theater to something so humdrum?...Lithgow performs both ably, switching voices, postures and outsized facial expressions with ease. But that’s really the bare minimum for a successful single-actor, multi-character show...'Stories by Heart' is cozy and folksy, as affable and daring as a dish of vanilla ice cream."
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The Huffington Post
January 12th, 2018

“Lithgow’s someone who, it undeniably seems, would be great fun to have a cup of coffee and talk with...His irresistible affability that’s all but palpable throughout the two-act piece...Unmissably, he instantly wins hearts and minds because he arrives on John Lee Beatty’s simple wood-paneled set to chat about his upbringing...Lithgow’s movements—he makes sounds to duplicate scissors snipping—are clippingly directed by Sullivan...His masculine charm prevails throughout."
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What Should We Do?
February 1st, 2018

"Two delightful hours...He brings his whole bag of tricks to 'Stories by Heart,' delicately shaped and grounded by director Daniel Sullivan...The performer has a wonderfully light touch, garrulous and self-amused...Anyone who loves literature—consumed in silence or zestfully shouted aloud—will heartily agree: Stories are oxygen. Head over to the Roundabout Theatre Company and breathe deep."
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Gotham Playgoer
February 25th, 2018

"It’s always a pleasure to see Lithgow, even when his material is less than compelling...I enjoyed the family reminiscences he recounted before each story more than the stories themselves. I wish he had devoted the entire evening to an expanded sharing of his family memories...Daniel Sullivan’s direction tries to enliven the proceedings with modest success."
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New York Theatre Guide
January 16th, 2018

“An homage to his father and mother, to writing, and to storytelling itself...On this large stage a bit of nuance couldn’t hurt. I don’t know how much Sullivan was able to offer in the way of direction, but it seems as though he was outnumbered...Lithgow does his share of indicating rather than experiencing...In spite of the meandering performance in ‘Stories’, Lithgow himself is completely engaging."
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W
January 16th, 2018

“The artist creates a comfort zone in which tension fades and spirits rise...You’ll be glad you came...This show, beautifully honed over a ten year period, is comprised of two short, enacted stories...Lithgow is warm, inventive, and utterly charming. He owns every moment of this potent pleasure from hokum to heartache. One can only hope there’s a sequel...This version of the presentation is directed by Sullivan whose talents here are both broad and nuanced. There’s never a dull moment.”
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T
January 17th, 2018

“An intimate celebration of the art of storytelling, the actor’s craft, and the love of literature and family...Transforming raw materials into theatrical gold...'Uncle Fred' is a riotous romp satirizing British middle-class snobbery...Daniel Sullivan’s subtle direction, John Lee Beatty’s handsome drawing-room set, and Kenneth Posner’s cozy lighting compliment Lithgow’s tour-de-force turn perfectly. This one-man show has artistry as well as 'Heart.'"
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Village Voice
January 13th, 2018

“The clarity and precision of Lithgow’s acting suggests that Sullivan has been vigilant in focusing the actor’s capabilities...Some spectators may feel that ‘Stories by Heart’ is overlong and too modest in scale, there is no denying how well Lithgow commands its 740-seat auditorium. It is a pleasure to witness Lithgow demonstrate his proficiency as an actor while honoring both his father and the power of the spoken word.”
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Broadway & Me
January 20th, 2018

"I barely made it through 'Stories by Heart'...Lithgow performs both with gusto...Despite Lithgow's ebullient performance, these old-fashioned tales failed to hold my attention. I found my mind drifting off, particularly during the Wodehouse story, whose loopy characters and their bon mots proved too slight and slippery for me to grasp...Despite my disappointment in 'Stories by Heart,' its underlying story got to me."
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Daily Beast
January 11th, 2018

"As warm and commanding a stage presence as he is on screen...If you like radio drama, or audio drama, then you may love 'Stories By Heart.' But you have to focus harder...There is great skill to what Lithgow is attempting, but the exercise is also oddly airless and feels a little pointless. Why has he, why are we, going to all this trouble, merely to recite two stories? We don’t learn anything about the art of storytelling as revealed by stories, or the meaning of storytelling, or the act of it."
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DC Metro Theater Arts
January 11th, 2018

"The choice of material is surprising but revelatory, in terms of what was considered humorous in the last century (but has become offensive now) and of the adult themes to which the young Lithgow was exposed from an early age...What is abundantly clear is how much the star relishes his career as a thespian and raconteur, how deeply embedded in his life are his love of acting and appreciation for storytelling, and the debt he owes to his beloved parents for giving all of that to him."
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Financial Times (UK)
January 12th, 2018

"Lithgow first takes on the role of a gossipy Midwestern barber in Lardner’s 'Haircut'...Lithgow’s uncharacteristically subdued delivery, which befits Lardner’s dismal tone, further taxes our powers of concentration. What results is a scrupulous rendition that nonetheless seems to lack an extra theatrical dimension. No such quibbles pertain to Lithgow’s take on ‘Uncle Fred Flits By’...Wodehouse’s vaudevillian characters and winningly bizarre turns of phrase become ideal theatrical fodder."
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City Cabaret
January 16th, 2018

“A collection of colorful characters in his ebullient one-man show...With the buoyant charm of a favorite neighbor, the voice of an eloquent professor and an elastic physical prowess that has served him as a poignant leading man, a scintillating wit, a flat-out silly comic, Lithgow is masterful...Lithgow found a personal value in the healing power of story-telling...A charming reminiscence over some cold winter hours.”
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Newsday
January 11th, 2018

“Heartwarming...Lithgow honors his father and mother with this sentimental look at his family’s past...Lithgow performs two stories. The first, ‘Haircut’ by Lardner...Using impressive mime skills, Lithgow portrays a barber...Far funnier is Wodehouse’s ‘Uncle Fred Flits By.’ Lithgow makes full use of his theatrical repertoire...Precious, to anyone who sees ‘Stories by Heart,’ is the loving way son has chosen to pay tribute to father.”
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The Stage (UK)
January 11th, 2018

"As a showcase for Lithgow’s skills as a physical comedian and bendy-faced mimic, 'Stories' allows him ample room to be a joyful ham. But dramatically, and as a work of cohesive storytelling, the outwardly sentimental show has little in the way of heft. The dramatised stories are neither gripping nor fun enough to turn this passion project into something capable of commanding a Broadway stage...Director Daniel Sullivan’s production fails to guide us."
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Epoch Times
January 21st, 2018

"Lithgow, in an absolutely sterling performance, uses the classic art of storytelling to take the audience on a journey through his own past, while also showing just how transformative the power of the spoken word can be...He throws himself full force into making the two stories come wonderfully, and, and at times, hysterically, to life...'Stories By Heart' shows the lasting emotional resonance a really good story can have."
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StageZine
January 15th, 2018

"Mr. Lithgow is a pro who always delivers the best. This venture is no exception...However, as a Broadway show, it lacks the substance to sustain an evening of entertainment...As it stands, with two acts it stretches and loses impact. Daniel Sullivan directs the episodes tightly, but unfortunately they are not edited enough. The intentions are good but the breadth is too minimal to sustain a two-act show."
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The Wrap
January 11th, 2018

"Well-intentioned but ill-proportioned...He’s gotten it to a good-as-it’s-gonna-get place. But this modest celebration of the joys of storytelling, which opened Thursday, is at its heart a chamber piece that feels woefully out of place in a Broadway theater...This is the sort of performance that would play better in the Lithgow family living room, or even in a televised version in your TV room at home."
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Drama Queen NYC
January 14th, 2018

"Lithgow’s love for his father is palpable in this piece, and I found that particularly moving...Lithgow is marvelously specific in the physicality he gives these short stories, realistically pantomiming an early 20th Century 'two bit' shave-and-a-haircut in the Lardner...This production is lively and vivacious, due in equal parts to Lithgow’s native theatrical intelligence and Daniel Sullivan’s canny direction. 'Stories by Heart' is thoroughly sincere and sentimental, which I find very refreshing."
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British Theatre Guide
January 12th, 2018

“Both very personal and universal. Lithgow frames two short stories...with two poignant excerpts drawn from his own history...Lithgow delivers a masterclass, while providing a worthy memorial to his parents in a quiet show that does exactly what his fans will expect. Quite how much of an impression it will make on those sitting at the back of the auditorium may be open to question but, in close-up, it is a unique opportunity to commune with an institution.”
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Stu on Broadway
January 19th, 2018

"The award-winning thespian of stage, screen and television captivates and entertains the audience with a theatrical delivery of the stories...At its best the show pulsates as when an animated Lithgow portrays multiple, rather eccentric characters...But the emphasis on the two stories can come across like a one-trick pony. If the stories don't resonate there's not much else to grab onto...A very personal, mostly entertaining memoir, from one of our finest actors."
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Journal Inquirer
January 20th, 2018

"Though these introductions are brief, they create an intimate atmosphere as the presence of Lithgow pulls us into his broad, loving embrace...Lithgow's performance is tender...His enactment of 'Haircut' gets a little dicey at times as the first half of the story tends to ramble a bit, making it about five to 10 minutes too long. His performance of 'Uncle Fred Flits By,' though, is one of the funniest things you’ll see all year."
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Center on the Aisle
January 12th, 2018

"Even in a large Broadway house, its an extremely intimate evening with the brilliant Lithgow. He performs almost a dozen characters throughout both his stories. They’re people he has come to know like family. And although as an audience we inherently come to the theater for a good story, Lithgow reminds us that we also take them with us when we go. And a good one can become a part of our character, shaping us for generations to come."
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The Huffington Post
January 11th, 2018

"Lithgow poses a fundamental question to his audience when the show begins. Why do we tell and listen to stories? And by way of giving us an answer, his answer…he determinedly shows more than tells. Gratifyingly, his ‘Stories By Heart’ is written and staged with deceptive simplicity, and entirely avoids any air of the didactic...The small stretches of writing he has himself contributed are cannily woven around two classic short stories that he’s chosen to perform."
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