For all his bellicosity, the Scalia in “The Originalist” is also a charmer, balancing his ursine ferocity with a thoughtful quietude. Justice Ginsburg, who is 85 and figures in the play only as an offstage presence (“I love Ruth Ginsburg,” Scalia says), painted the real Scalia as a considerate and mischievous colleague who, from the time they were appellate judges together in the 1980s, was not above whispering in her ear or passing her a note to crack her up.
“Scalia was a very good writer, and he did labor over his opinions,” she said. “Both of us did. And sometimes he would come to my chambers, to tell me I had made a grammatical error.” The crowd roared. “I would sometimes tell him his opinion was so strident he would be more persuasive if he toned it down.” A pause, because she knows how to deliver a line. Then: “He never took that advice.”
Their friendship was grounded in love of law, opera and, Justice Ginsburg said on Sunday, family. During his lifetime their rapport was the object of much fascination, and also the subject of a comic opera, “Scalia/Ginsburg.”
Justice Ginsburg — who officiated when Ms. Smith married her partner, Suzanne Blue Star Boy, in 2014 — has been gaining in cultural currency. There are the books about her, like “Notorious RBG” and “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark,” whose title was emblazoned on the book bag at her feet. Felicity Jones is playing her in a biopic, “On the Basis of Sex,” due out in December. And there is the well-received documentary “RBG,” released this spring.
In “The Originalist,” Cat describes herself as a flaming liberal — a fact Justice Ginsburg noted before saying, calmly and with a small flourish of her left hand, “Well, I consider myself a flaming feminist.”
One of the most vociferous liberals on a divided court, she didn’t discuss the drama surrounding Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. But when the subject of her own eventual retirement came up, she cited the example of Justice John Paul Stevens. “He stepped down when he was 90,” she said, “so I think I have about, at least five more years.”