November 15th, 2017

Belle of Amherst and a Local Review

Well, here's a Chicago Tribune theater review as summarized in one sub-headline:

"Kate Fry is a perfect Emily Dickinson in creaking 'Belle of Amherst'"

He heaps praise upon the actress. I saw her performance, and thought she was excellent.

But then he goes after the play itself, which is interesting. He thinks it's out of date in various ways.

"The piece lacks the deconstructionist complexity (and the recent academic contextualization) that audiences tend to seek out today."

But... how much do audiences really seek out academic contextualization? I imagine there's an audience for that, but that it's not really a big audience.

The play does put forth a certain interpretation of Dickinson. You can say the interpretation's out of date, but I'm not sure. She's one of those poets about whom we really don't know all that much. She remains veiled in mystery. A lot of academic interpretation is itself trendy, and is not really something new that we know.

I say, if you want academic contextualization of Emily Dickinson, go read some academic studies on the topic. But if you just want an enjoyable introduction, this play remains solid. It does a particularly good job of working her poetry right into the script.

I mean, really, she is a difficult poet for most people to get into. The fact that you can sit there and be comfortably introduced - while enjoying yourself - is remarkable.

Both the Trib reviewer, and another local reviewer, suggested that the theater company should have found a newer play about Dickinson.

But as for me,
I was glad to see
An old play well-performed,
That left my heart fully warmed.