A Disease that Has more Joys than Health
Many people nowadays think of poetry as little more than a disease, but Thalia’s Umbrella’s production of When Love Speaks will undoubtedly cure them of that notion, because more than any performance I have ever seen in verse, it honored the spoken word of the great English poets.
Although local playwright David Wright devised the plot, and compiled the script, all the words of this intriguing play were taken from various love poems. Among the poets were the golden poets of the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson as well as the silver poets of that era: Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Phillip Sydney and Sir Walter Raleigh and of course Queen Elizabeth I. Just to add a little bit of variety, the more louche Cavalier poets of the 17th Century also put in an appearance.
The subject matter of the play was simply all the different permutations of love. When called the “discoverer of psychology” Freud remarked that, it was the poets, who were the first psychologists. The poetry compiling When Love Speaks, illustrates this. When Love Speaks, covers the material found in psychology books on love and courtship, love and marriage, contrition and forgiveness, lust and betrayal, the rationalizations and the consequences for betrayal and lust, all portrayed is a highly amusing and superbly witty fashion.
The play is set on the lake-dock of an upscale resort. Among the guests are middle-aged married couples, Phyllis, played to perfection by Christine Marie Brown, her husband/partner, Thyrsis, played by a very witty Terry Edward Moore, as a rake. (a 17th Century term for someone with libertine attitudes towards women.) The other two individuals are two very pretty young women, Katherine Jett, who plays Stella, a sort of Orlando character from As You Like It, writing love-sick poetry to a confused Celia, played by Alyssa Kay.
Over the course of their stay at the resort, as they traverse the dock to get towels, as well as go swimming and fishing in the lake, various attempts at coupling, uncoupling, re-coupling, more uncoupling and more re-coupling take place.
Although it was all extremely funny and made me want to cheer “Right On Sister!” during a mini-war of the sexes, this play, like all great comedy, contained a serious discussion and profound truths about the highs and lows of that ultimately inexplicable indefinable thing called romantic love. And had a few things to say about the distinction between lust and love.
In the end, the rake Thyrsis, gets his comeuppance, the two young ladies, after a courtship where they get to know each other, rather than just react hormonally, get together in what appears to be a healthy, fulfilling, lasting relationship worthy of the end of a Jane Austen novel.
I cannot praise this production enough, it has everything going for it, beginning with the light and airy set, by Roberta Russel, which served the production to a T. Director Daniel Wilson deserves the highest praise, as he drew out the best in all the actors. Particularly admirable was the timing and pacing of the dialogue. The complicated special sound effects by Lucy Peckam made everything seem real, rather than staged.
Then there was the de-licious de-lightful Cole Porter music, mostly “Bewitched” supplied by pianist Dan McElrath, which introduced the show and played intermittently. The task the playwright was set was not exactly easy; to take a loose plot, and find verse already written to fit it, but David Wright, managed this creatively and skillfully. Whatever you call this style of writing it was tour-de-force.
Then of course there was the acting, very few actors could have done this, all the roles were vocally demanding, they spoke clearly, conveyed the meaning of the complex poetry, while engaging the audience. Katherine Jett was particularly amusing as the vulnerable, gawky, lovesick Stella, her comic timing was right on the money. As Stella, Alyssa Kay, delivered a wonderful speech accusing her seducer, and herself, when she realizes that it was all just a one-night stand with Thyrsis. Terry Edward Moore, was highly amusing when Thyrsis actually articulated out-loud, what most men only think, the morning after a one-night stand. (and thank you poet Richard Lovelace for the clarification!)
In an evening of outstanding performances, there was also Christine Marie Brown, whose velvety voice drew the audience in like a snake charmer. Her treatise on the inexplicable nature of love and forgiveness and her “uppityness” added something that a modern audience could applaud.
If you love poetry, this is a play to see, if you have hitherto hated poetry, this show will change your mind. Go see it, especially on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14. It isn’t often that plays in verse are performed by such brilliant actors. There were no “rusting tongues” in this production.
When Love Speaks. By David Wright. produced by Thalia’s Umbrella. Issac Studio. Taproot Theatre. Valentine’s Day Tues Feb 14. 7:30
Also Mon. Feb 13. 7:30 Thurs Feb 23. 7:30 pm Fri. Feb 17 & 24, 8pm. Sat. Feb 18 8pm, Sat. Feb 25 2pm and 8 pm. Tickets www. whenlovespeaks.brownpapertickets.com