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A CurtainUp Review
—original review by Les Gutman by Les Gutman
Edge is not a show devoted to Plath's poetry. Indeed, other than a brief snippet of the poem she wrote on the occasion of her son's birth ("Love set you going like a fat gold watch...."), I don't recall a single line of verse. Instead, it is a play about the woman: her relationships with her parents and her husband, Ted Hughes; her putative failures; her psychiatric encounters; and, perhaps most of all, her rage. This makes sense: although a fastidious and prolific poet throughout the period on which she reflects, Plath's recognition arrived posthumously. What did she want to be, her psychiatrist asked after her failed suicide attempt that prompted her only novel, The Bell Jar. An artist, she replied. She felt she drew well.
Ms. Torn inhabits her character masterfully, revealing an enormous range of emotions. At times, she speaks so rapidly one imagines she can't get her thoughts out of her mouth fast enough; at others, she speaks with precision, suggesting she is searching for answers she doesn't have. Anger recurs, expressing itself in outbursts, but just as often in calculated vengeance or an almost casually sardonic humor. Glimpses of other feelings -- love, lust, jealousy and a childlike sense of frustration among them -- flesh out Plath's interior conflicts.
Paul Alexander wrote the play expressly for Ms. Torn. He is also the author of Rough Magic, a major Plath biography. His writing here is clear, informative and a good deal funnier than one might expect. (He also directs.) His skillful weaving of frequently ironic arcs in Ms. Plath's life bespeaks his immersion in his subject. Between playwright and performer, it hard not to be infused with enthusiasm as well.
Edge is performed on a practically empty stage -- just a chair and side table. Plath's environment is established by extensive and excellent light and sound design.
One final note: Plath spits plenty of venom in a lot of directions, but her most toxic comments are reserved for the "cow" for whom Ted Hughes left her. Her name as Assia Gutman (Wevill), and the way Torn pronounces it, you can't help but hate her. It's always nice to hear my family name trashed so expertly.