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Off-Broadway Review—Calvin Trillin’s “About Alice”

About Alice

Written by Calvin Trillin; directed by Leonard Foglia

Performances through February 3, 2019


Carrie Paff and Jeffrey Bean in About Alice (photo: Henry Grossman)

Anyone familiar with essayist Calvin Trillin’s writings was aware of his wife Alice, the brainy, beautiful blonde shiksa who deigned to marry a Jew from Kansas City: his stories and books are filled with references to and anecdotes about her. But after she died (on Sept. 11, 2001 of all dates), Trillin penned a book, About Alice, transforming her from a literary character to flesh-and-blood person that made everything he’d written about seem fuller and richer.


Now there’s the play About Alice, a two-hander devised by Trillin from his book and his lifetime of memories with his beloved wife, and it’s as amusing, engaging, emotional and, ultimately, poignant as his book is. Narrated by Trillin—embodied in the droll performance of Jeffrey Bean—and punctuated by Alice herself bursting in periodically—an affecting and effervescent Carrie Paff—this short one-acter is a labor of love for the playwright and the audience.


Trillin’s deadpan humor—as anyone who saw his many hilarious appearances on Johnny Carson can attest—is always in evidence, even when his drama takes a darker turn down the road of Alice’s lung cancer (though she never smoked), which ended up playing a major part in the weakened heart that killed her a quarter-century later. 


Bean and Paff play off each other with easy familiarity and tenderness in Leonard Foglia’s simple and effective staging. Of course, at 75 minutes it might only skim the surface of such a lengthy and loving relationship, but About Alice retains the warmth and wit that distinguishes Trillin’s best work.


About Alice

Theatre for a New Audience, Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Brooklyn, NY

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