Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Literate urbanity sparked by the theatrical expertise of Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson formed the fitting annual benefit for Arena Stage Sunday night in its Kreeger Theater.
The choice of material, dependent entirely upon the artists, can be immensely revealing in a program, blithely titled "Bits and Pieces." In their choices, the Wallachs revealed themselves as spirited, adventurous readers and discoveries of material which suited them as well as the occasion, a gathering of Arena's worldly faithful to mend at least partially the yearly deficit under which, somehow, Arena maintains its envied standards of quality.
This was a quality performance which shows that the Wallachs do not need playwrights to spark their controlled, underplaying style.
From nursery rhymes, Edger Lee Masters, Robert Frost and Enid Bagnold the acting couple went on to dramatize letters from John and Abigail Adams and Benjamin Frankin. They arranged a male-female poetic duel between Samuel Hoffenstein and Dorothy Parker in ingenious, flashing choices. There was special relish for two works by Judith Viorist, who was in the audience.
The highlight was pure acting, Act II of Anouilh's "Waltz of the Toreadors," but all the readings used acting so adroitly that some couples in the house decided that they would try their own poetry readings. Thus, apart from the immediate pleasure, the Wallachs served to remind their audience that is poetry, imaginatively read, there is wit as well as dramatic tensions and fire.
Too bad, it was for one night only.