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theatre review

Christopher Plummer accepts the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in Beginners at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood on Feb. 26, 2012.Gary Hershorn/Reuters

For star rating and full review, see Saturday's arts section

Last seen at Stratford as Prospero, Christopher Plummer – a couple years older and an Academy Award heavier – opens up his personal magic books, quoting from poets, playwrights and authors who have cast spells over him since he was a shy boy growing up in Quebec.

There's Shakespeare, of course, and Shaw, but also artists he knew personally (and drank with) such as Dylan Thomas and, a surprise favourite, Archibald McLeish.

While he clearly holds these writers quite close to his heart, Plummer keeps the audience at a distance in this poorly structured and paced show. Despite veering frequently into the autobiographical, he remains aloof throughout – even as he speaks of his mother's death and ponders his own.

There are certainly pleasures in spending an hour and a half with Plummer like this – when else are you going to see him do Ophelia or, quite powerfully, Othello? He's best in the longer passages, as Cyrano de Bergerac (in English and en français) or the Devil from Don Juan in Hell. Still, would he were doing one or the other all the way through.