For someone who made her Broadway debut 68 years ago, Elaine Stritch is still quite the firecracker. Dressed in her trademark white collared shirt and black tights—as Tina Fey notes, the long-legged legend doesn’t wear pants—Stritch has irrepressible elan, both onstage and off. Chiemi Karasawa’s documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me isn’t a sweeping biography but rather a portrait of the performer as she neared her 87th birthday (she’s now 89). One moment she’s breaking into an impromptu rumba and unleashing an expletive-rich prayer before a performance, and the next she’s suffering a scary hypoglycemic attack. As brassy as Stritch can be, she’s acutely aware she’s in the last act of her life: “Oh, darling, dying is easy,” she says. “Comedy is hard.” And she wants it all documented, from her Sondheim-centric cabaret act to her daily tasks—at one point, she berates a cameraman for not adequately capturing how she unpacks a box of English muffins. For those who only know Stritch as Alec Baldwin’s cantankerous mother on 30 Rock, this is an alternately rollicking and bittersweet introduction to the star. And for those more familiar, it’s a touching testament to the way the stage has given Stritch seven decades of stories, purpose and joy.
Critic’s Grade: A-
SEE IT: Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me opens Friday at Living Room Theaters.