Cecily Strong finds ‘Signs of Intelligent Life’ in a celebrated one-woman show : NPR


Tonight a brand new manufacturing of “The Search For Indicators Of Clever Life In The Universe” opens off Broadway. The one-woman present was initially made well-known by Lily Tomlin taking part in a wide range of totally different characters. This time, it stars “Saturday Night time Reside’s” Cecily Robust. Jeff Lunden studies.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: Again in 1985, Lily Tomlin made a splash on Broadway within the one-person play written by her now-wife Jane Wagner. She received a Tony Award and made a movie model. In each, she performed a solid of characters that features Trudy, the homeless sage who claims she’s in touch with aliens.


LILY TOMLIN: (As Trudy) They seem to be a type of cosmic fact-finding committee. Amongst different initiatives, they have been looking out throughout for indicators of clever life. It is loads trickier than it sounds.

LUNDEN: Now Cecily Robust is taking part in the half her personal manner.

CECILY STRONG: I’ve to be me in it, you realize, as a result of there’s simply an excessive amount of else occurring – if I am attempting to additionally play Lily Tomlin, neglect it (laughter).


STRONG: (As Trudy) Yeah, see. They’re type of like a cosmic fact-finding committee. Amongst different initiatives, they have been looking out throughout for indicators of clever life. It is loads trickier than it sounds.

TOMLIN: I feel she’s simply doing an amazing job. It is nice enjoyable to see.

LUNDEN: That is Lily Tomlin, who, with Jane Wagner, is an government producer of this revival at The Shed in Manhattan. They have been following on video from their dwelling in California. When the humanities complicated requested Leigh Silverman if there was a play she’d wish to direct, she considered “The Search For Indicators Of Clever Life In The Universe.”

LEIGH SILVERMAN: There are tales that really feel like they join us after a time of such isolation. And I reread it and was blown away at how prescient Jane was, how related the play felt, how humorous it nonetheless felt.

LUNDEN: And when she watched a “Saturday Night time Reside” sketch with Cecily Robust taking part in Fox Information host Choose Jeanine diving right into a field of wine, she knew she’d discovered her star.


STRONG: (As Choose Jeanine, singing) I did it my manner.

SILVERMAN: And I used to be like, that is it – like, the searing political commentary, the unbelievable comedic chops, the overall fearlessness.

LUNDEN: Robust performs a sequence of sharply outlined characters. And because the play goes on, the viewers begins to find the connections between these disparate folks, all of whom are trying to find one thing from the homeless Trudy to a teenage efficiency artist to a girl attempting totally different self-help seminars.


STRONG: (As character) We’re all being force-fed a variety of false hopes, Eileen (ph) – sure, false hopes about romance, weight administration, success, intercourse, life. You identify it – false hopes.

LUNDEN: Jane Wagner tailor-made the play for Lily Tomlin’s shapeshifting skills.

JANE WAGNER: I by no means considered Lily having any downside doing totally different characters. To do tales inside an even bigger story appeared simply naturally there in the best way I used to be pondering. I needed to do one thing about humanity.

LUNDEN: Lily Tomlin feels the time is true to offer the play over to a different human.

TOMLIN: I actually needed Jane’s authorship to face as a result of so typically, I get thrown into the entire combine. And so they speak about collaborative and so forth. And in fact, Jane is a solitary author, and that is it. She does write all of it.

LUNDEN: Whereas writing and acting on “Saturday Night time Reside,” Cecily Robust met weekly with director Leigh Silverman to go over the play. Then the 2 had an intense month-long rehearsal interval.

STRONG: I used to be consuming, consuming, sleeping, respiratory – Jane Wagner was – has been dwelling in my head now, which is kind of a pleasant factor.


STRONG: (As character) I refuse to be intimidated by actuality anymore. In spite of everything, what’s actuality anyway? – nothing however a collective hunch.

LUNDEN: Jane Wagner’s play ends by acknowledging the viewers. Leigh Silverman says that sentiment resonates extra strongly within the midst of the pandemic.

SILVERMAN: She thanks the viewers within the play. Like, what play does that? It is actually beneficiant. It is written from a really beneficiant place.

LUNDEN: For NPR Information, I am Jeff Lunden in New York.


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