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This review is being posted as Monograms enters its final week at the always interesting and adventurous Theater for the New City in the East Village. The playwright, Susan Mach, is to be commended for directing our attention to the work of a little known poet, Hazel Hall. And Crystal Field the director, who's also the co-founder and executive Director of TNC, deserves special Hurrah for her inspired casting of a wheelchair-bound actress to portray the wheelchair-bound main character.

The play derives its title from the sewing on which the crippled heroine spent many tedious hours to supplement the meager income of her librarian sister. The time is 1921 to 1924, the period most significant to Hazel Hall's writing career. The sexual and social restraints of the life in a small town in the Pacific Northwest coupled with the lack of money, makes for a claustophobic life for both sisters. In a sense, Ruth's life is almost the sadder and more confining. She loves her sister and is desperate to help her achieve a career as a poet, but her devotion and personal reserve also robs her of a life of her own--a possibility hinted at through the character of a young aspiring writer. Hazel, on the other hand--her disability, super sensibility and uncertainty about her writing notwithstanding--lives a passionate inner life.

Because her poems are through necessity confined to domestic subjects Hazel is drawn to the famous troubador poet Vachel Lindsay. As he wandered all over the country to perform his poems, he wanders in and out of the play as a shadowy role model and imaginary lover. This link between the two poets, derives not just from the fact that Hall's work has become associated with the school of poetry inspired by Lindsay, but the fact that many of his poems were the result of his meetings with numerous "inspirational girls." Even Kitty's fantasized choice not to go off with Lindsay seems grounded in the fact that many of these real-life "inspirational girls" also rejected him.

Kitty Lunn whose career came to a sudden stop after she sustained permanent spinal injury in an accident, gives a luminous performance. Mark Marcante's interpretation of Lindsay is rather less successful, probably because the poet's life is too dramatic in its own right to be relagated to this minor fantasy role. Perhaps audiences as unfamiliar with his work a Hall's would find this part less confusing if the program included more details about him. Laura Wickens, as the sister, and Andy Reynolds as the young writer give creditable performances but the play is Miss Lunn's. Since Hall's poetry is now gaining considerable popularity after years of neglect (as Linday's reputation has declined), this play does have a happy ending of sorts.

If you get to the TFN before it closes, bear in mind that it's open seating and stay away from the first row. The two-story set makes the view from up close uncomfortable and distorted. The stage really isn't so small, that a one-level set wouldn't have worked just as effectively--especially for the sister who has to do an incredible amount of running up and down the stairs to the ide of this set.

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