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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 48
Man in the Newspaper Hat falls well short of potential
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Man in the Newspaper Hat falls well short of potential

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Man in the Newspaper Hat
Odd Duck Studio
Through December 17


Sometimes, an upcoming production looks to be an extra-special treat, partly due to the excitement of the idea presented in the play, or the pedigrees and experience of those who will be part of the cast and/or crew. Such an expectation was created for the independently produced play, The Man in the Newspaper Hat.

The idea of the play, written by Hayley Heaton, was to detail visits between Elizabeth Bishop, a noted poet of her time sometimes referred to as a 'poet's poet,' and Ezra Pound, a poet noted not only for his adept use of language preceding and introducing modern American poetry, but for being branded by and vilified for his powerful WWII pro-Fascist Italy and anti-Semite sentiments.

Pound was charged with treason but was declared mentally unfit to stand trial. He spent the next 12 years in a mental hospital, St. Elizabeth's, where he wrote and continued to publish. During that time, Bishop secured a post as poetry consultant for the Library of Congress and could conceivably have visited Pound at the hospital. She wrote a seminal piece entitled 'Visits to St. Elizabeth's' that refers to Pound.

Heaton's script has Bishop visiting Pound to try to coax him away from his fascist convictions. The possibility of some great arguments and verbal sparring were set.

The pedigree of director Katrin Hilbe includes extensive international credits (including opera, as Hilbe assistant-directed multiple operas in Germany). Hilbe also has a focus on performance art, combining multiple disciplines. Heaton herself is a published poet. One of the two actors, David S. Klein, has been a frequent performer in the Seattle area for many years.

Ultimately, the expectations were dashed, first and foremost by a script that completely failed to deliver. Heaton's dialogue is stilted and unconvincing. There are no arguments of compelling larger-than-human scale. There is no clearly articulated, well-reasoned argument of any kind. In fact, it's almost impossible to determine the personalities of the two characters or their abilities regarding language, since the dialogue is muddy and suggestive rather than pointed and distinct.

Klein does his best to rescue the portrayal of Pound. He is as clear as he can be regarding Pound's motivations, though there is nothing he can really do to create clarity where none is provided to him.

His acting partner in this two-hander, Lisa Keeton, is mismatched for this production. She is unable to portray any clear reason why her character would want to meet over and over again with this man, and never seems to be successful in talking with him about poetry, or gaining any insight from their conversations. She alternates between looking like a frightened rabbit when he rages, or a condescending intellectual. There is little actual chemistry of friendship between them.

Even at 75 minutes, the production feels too long, since it never makes any headway toward where it promised to go.

For more information, go to www.brownpapertickets.com or call 206-679-3271.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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