Is it a wave or a particle? A question raised early in Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It by the short, plump, but amazingly spry man at center stage. He’s a few months shy of his 82nd birthday and it seems a relevant question one must ponder about the strange and unique career of William Shatner.
The 90-minute one-man show that made a brief stop at Segerstrom Hall January 17 was both a treat for his legion of fans and something of a curiosity for many of the center regulars who, presumably were not even close to being Trekkies and might not have known much more about Shatner than as Priceline pitchman.
Here is a guy who has taken far too much work just for the sake of being a working actor and in one sense undermined his image – and Shatner is hardly the first or last actor to do so – but has succeeded despite that.
A simple but effective staging with a giant screen at the center, in front of a star-light backdrop, a tall table and chair at each side, and the all-purpose optimization of a desk chair allowed Shatner to freely move as he regaled the audience with a mostly whimsical survey of his life, so far. There were his humble beginnings in Canada, his time as an understudy to buddy Christopher Plummer in a run of Henry V, his love of horses, his final embrace of the Captain Kirk character that has defined his career, his rock recordings, and even the bitterness some of his "Star Trek" co-stars have long held for him.
And it remains one of the trademarks – maybe even an engine of Shatner’s career that he seems impervious to personal criticism and even outright mockery. Part of the charm of Shatner’s World is his ability to acknowledge that he’s a bit of a ham and that he has certainly made mistakes along the way, but did so without any explicit apologies in the performance.
For the Trekkies and hipsters who love the ironic and kitschy cool of the actor, there probably wasn’t enough of Bill to go around. But for the uninitiated, it might have been an entryway into 21st century pop culture. For his part, Shatner is a gifted storyteller. He is funny and interesting and even damn near poignant in moments. So if his career is merely a particle and nothing more than an overblown inside joke, or a wave of star talent that has allowed him to come and go multiple times, evolve and persevere, is matter of perspective. But for 90 minutes, it was a pleasant surprise, a simple and charming diversion and a fun detour to a world called Shatner.