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Shatner talks about life, laughter and love in Pittsburgh stop

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 11:48 p.m.

REVIEW

You're lying on a bunk in an RV, listening to the soft, sleeping breathing of your three daughters after a day on a ski trip. Outside, 3 feet of freshly fallen snow. Suddenly, a piece of fruit falls from a basket, startling you, and you get up to investigate. ... There's an intruder ­— a rat.

In a case like this, a man might ask himself: What would Capt. Kirk do?

William Shatner, the actor who portrayed the quick-thinking adventurer in the 1960s television series “Star Trek” and its later big-screen continuations, told the story to a close-to-full house of fans from a broad range of ages Thursday night at the Benedum Center.

What would Kirk have done? Looked at his enemy with a sense of wonder as he devised a plan of action. What did Shatner do? Grabbed a ski pole to use as a javelin as he tracked the vermin and chased it into the snow, while clad in nothing but shorts and a T-shirt.

Shatner, 81, is touring with his one-man show, “Shatner's World: We Just Live in It.” Dressed in jeans, a blazer and a vest, he talked to the audience in the Downtown venue about his career and personal loves and losses. At times, he sat on his “co-chair” or at one of the tables to the side as a video clip played. The rest of the time, he paced the stage, sometimes falling into the brisk gait of a vaudeville comedian — a type of humor, he says, that was one of his first loves as a kid growing up in Montreal. That was one of his themes: What do we laugh at?

Working from a scripted monologue, Shatner talked for an hour and 45 minutes. At times his voice was ringing, at times a whisper; his delivery ranged from an intimate conversation to a speech worthy of a monarch — something he's played several of in his career.

He touched briefly on his starring roles in “Star Trek” and “Boston Legal” and talked at length about his early career onstage and in live television. At age 25, he was an unrehearsed understudy who had to go on for Christopher Plummer in a live performance of “Henry V.” But “the muse was on him,” and the evening was a success. “Life is risk,” he says.

Shatner talked a little about some prominent co-stars, like James Spader and Plummer, and shared how Patrick Stewart helped him come to grips with forever being known as Capt. Kirk.

He talked about his father's death, and about the death of his favorite horse, Sultan's Great Day.

“Life,” he says, “doesn't have to end at death if love is present.”

During a telephone interview in advance of the show, Shatner talked about his enjoyment in doing talk shows such as “Shatner's Raw Nerve,” which aired a few years ago on cable television.

“Everyone's got an interesting story; it just takes time to get it,” he said, explaining his approach to conducting such conversations. “Those interview things — plumbing somebody's depths for a moment, wandering along a conversational path — is great fun.”

Admittedly, the conversation on Thursday was one-sided. But for an audience interested in the actor's trek though memories and lessons learned, the evening was, indeed, great fun.

Catherine Artman and Vaunda Bonnett are staff writers for Trib Total Media.

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