Lawrence Fishbourne is speaking a few feet in front of me, but the voice coming out of his mouth is that of an angry Harvey Keitel. “You’re gonna be okay!” he is screaming over and over with growing intensity. I must be having a having a crazy dream. Say what? I am awake? I am at the LACMA’s latest Live Read with Jason Reitman…Oh!
In case you’re not privy to Live Read, it’s an event wherein Reitman (director of Juno and Up in the Air) chooses a well-known movie and newly casts it with famous actors in all the roles, and then this celebrated cast breathes new life into the old script, performing it live for an audience. Reitman reads all the stage directions himself, and sometimes we are treated to never-before-seen scenes that never made it into the movie.
This is the penultimate Live Read of the season, and the movie Reitman has chosen is Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. But, in honor of Black History Month and to provide the audience with a fresh perspective on the colorful dialogue, our cast tonight is comprised of celebrated African American actors: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, Lawrence Fishbourne, Common, Anthony Anderson, Anthony Mackie, and Chi McBride. (Plus one beloved white guy, Patton Oswalt, who plays radio DJ K-Billy with a hilariously cheesy snuff-nosed voice.)
Whether or not you’re a fan of Reservoir Dogs, it is a memorable film, and seeing all these charming brown-skinned men in black suits with black ties spouting the most violent mobster language in cinematic history is a sight to behold. Imagine the novelty, humor, and shock that ensues when you hear Common’s syrupy voice saying, “Let me tell you what ‘Like a Virgin’ is about,” or the laid-back charisma of Terrence Howard as Mr. Orange drawling, “So are you gon’ bark all day, little doggie, or are you gon’ bite?”
The most interesting thing is, you’ll never get to see this on TV or the internet or someone’s cell phone. In keeping with the “here today, gone tomorrow” traditions of live theater, Live Reads are strictly just that. Live. And photos, videos, and audio recordings are strictly verboten. “We live in an age where everything is available to everyone, all the time,” says Reitman. “This is only available one night: tonight.”