Edge at the Arclight

Saturday, September 8th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

At the Arclight Theatre to watch award-winning actress Angelica Torn reprise her performance as poet Sylvia Plath in Paul Alexander’s solo play Edge. It was the final night of previews for the limited five-week run of this show which was previously seen in New York at the DR2 Theatre in 2003, the 40th anniversary of Plath’s death. (That same year Gwyneth Paltrow portrayed the poet on the big screen in Sylvia.) Since the original run, Torn has played Plath for audiences around the world, from the United States and England to New Zealand and Australia, where she will return for a second tour in 2008.



The entire play takes place on the final day of Plath’s life, opening with her composing a suicide note, and flashing back to episodes from her childhood in Massachusetts, to the loss of her brilliant, but tyrannical father at age 8, to her infamous suicide attempt in 1953 while a student at Smith College (which later inspired her only novel The Bell Jar) to Cambridge on a Fulbright scholarship to her whirlwind romance and rocky marriage to the English poet (and later Poet Laureate) Ted Hughes. The depiction of their volatile relationship is starkly one-sided – Hughes is demonized to the point that he is all but implicated in Plath’s untimely death at the age of 30 – but the image is nonetheless compelling. Hughes and Plath had two children together, Frieda and Nicholas, but separated in the autumn of 1962 over Hughes affair with Assia Gutmann Wevill — a name scorned biliously by Plath in the play. The demise of their marriage sent Plath into a spiral of depression (marked ironically, but an intensely creative period) during one of the harshest and coldest English winters on record, culminating with her death by gas oven that February. As Plath’s legal widower, Hughes became the executor of Plath’s personal and literary estates. (Ominously footnoted: six years later, Wevill took her own life together with that of her and Hughes’s four year old daughter Shura in a manner that closely resembled Plath’s suicide.)

Torn turns in an impressive marathon of a performance, fearlessly inhabiting her character for the full two hours. Her portrayal is a tumble of words – with episodes of intense physicality — biting and on occasion deeply bitter, at turns voracious and vulnerable. I anticipate liberal employment of the term “tour de force” in the reviews.

Torn is the daughter of Rip Torn and the late Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Geraldine Page, to whom this production is dedicated.

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