Dear Elizabeth opened Feb. 6th at the Seattle Repertory Theatre.
Dear Elizabeth is a must-see for anyone with a love of literature, particularly poetry. The play features Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, two well-known poets who had a long-standing friendship that existed primarily in the realm of letter-writing, but also in real-life at different writing events and lectures. Suzanne Bouchard and Stephen Barker Turner were the only members of the cast and the entire script was made up of abridged and reimagined letters that were sent between the two. The letters and the friendship, though personal and honest, displayed the irony of their connection: though we see them sharing the intimate details of their lives, we also see them omitting dark moments of their lives. When they spiral into alcoholism. When they spiral into mental issues, resulting in a stay at a mental institution at one point. Though letter-writing is viewed as antiquated, nostalgic and romantic, this play reminds us that communication in any of its forms can thickly veil reality.
The literary references were beautiful “Easter eggs” for the members in the audience who were well-versed in both famous poetry as well as famous poets. Poems are recited, mentioned, poked fun at. It was a delicious feast for a poetry reader, and the more well-read you are, the more rewarding the play will be for you. That said, this play can easily appeal and reach the non-literary person. For the common man who hasn’t read the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, some of the references will go over their head, but the same goes for plays and movies about sports— a person not well-versed in sports terms might feel lost at times, but will still be able to appreciate the storyline, the characters, the development.
Treat yourself to a ticket to this play and enjoy the epistolary beauty of Dear Elizabeth. And try not to get goosebumps at Suzanne Bouchard’s recitation of Bishop’s “One Art.”