Tuesday November 21st 2017

“The Belle of Amherst” reviewed by Michael Horn

 

Highly Recommended  ***** The Court Theatre continues its 63rd season with “The Belle of Amherst” by William Luce, directed by Sean Graney. Written in 1976, this biographical play is about poetress Emily Dickinson and uses her own original poems, diary entries, and letters to give the audience a glimpse into the complex and isolated life of one of the most prolific poets of our time.

 

The play opens with Emily (Kate Fry), in a simple white dress covered by an apron, welcoming us into her home. She is mixing her “black cake” batter, for which she is famous, as she begins an intimate conversation.  This might seem nonsensical to those who are familar with Dickinson’s reclusiveness, but Mr. Luce has transformed her into a down-to-earth woman,who, has written some of the finest poems ever composed. As the conversation develops, we learn about her family, her hopes, her dreams, her fears, her joy, and her disappointments.  She declares herself a “self- proclaimed nobody” and tells us of her “bodiless loves”. Her story is poignant, fascinating, and mesmerizing.  She brings us into her world and we become part of her poem.

 

Kate Fry as Emily Dickinson is fabulous! Her control, timing, delivery, and facial expressions bring her character to life in a way that is real and vulnerable.  This is a one woman show, but she easily moves from conversation to snipets of poetry and back to conversation with aplomb. She plays opposite over a dozen different characters and yet she is so convincing, so delightful, and so genuine that you are captivated and never want the conversations to end. The standing ovation that she received at the end of the play was a testament to her performance.

 

Sean Graney directs this play with a light and measured hand, allowing Ms. Fry to utilize every part of the stage and show us all of her enormous talent. He ensures that each vignette is well paced and flows seamlessly.

 

The free flowing set design by Arnel Sanciano invites us into Dickinson’s Amherst, Massachusetts  parlor, bedroom, and kitchen and enables Ms. Fry to move swiftly from scene to scene.  It is replete with period appropriate pieces, personal articles, pictures, personal mementos, plants, and views out the windows, very nicely done.

 

The lighting by Mike Durst brings the set and actor into focus for the audience as it changes from scene to scene and the sound effects by Andrew Pluess and Chris LaPorte add to the ambience.

 

The Belle of Amherst is an intriguing and spellbinding production with a performance by Kate Fry that is memorable, and the black cake handed out as you leave is delicious.  The Court Theatre continues to bring relevant and worthwhile works to the community and this one should not be missed!

 

The Belle of Amherst will run through December 3, 2017

 

Schedule:  Wed & Thurs.:   7:30PM

                   Fridays:              8:00PM

                   Saturdays:         3:00PM & 8:00PM

                   Sundays:           2:30PM & 7:30PM     

 

Location:   Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL

Tickets:      $50-$68

                   *Student, military, and senior discounts available.

 

Box Office: (773) 753-4472 or www.Courttheatre.org

 

Parking is available in the garage next to the theater. FREE

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at ” The Belle of Amherst”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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