Out of Touch

GreenStage offers something for nothing.

A TOUCH OF THE POET

Sandpoint Magnuson Park, 7400 Sandpoint Way, Bldg. #406, 748-1551, free donations collected postshow 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat. ends Sat., March 23

IT'S A LITTLE ODD that Eugene O'Neill—the playwright who brought American theater out of the Victorian age and into the modern—should write a play titled A Touch of the Poet. O'Neill may be known and revered for many things, but restraint isn't one of them; his work, like his life, never featured a mere "touch" of anything. He always favored the sledgehammer.

Equally odd is the fact that GreenStage—the local company that insists valiantly that art should be free—chose Poet as the debut offering in a series imaginatively titled, "American Classics." Call Long Day's Journey a "classic" if you want to, but A Touch of the Poet isn't much of a landmark. What's more, GreenStage's production never gains full control of O'Neill's play; director Peter Burford gets the ambience right but not the rhythm—the show flags and flails. And at nearly three hours of archaisms and Irish brogue—well, oy. Er, begorra. Whatever.

Here's the setup: In 19th-century Boston, a Byronic jackass (Philip Clarke) realizes that his life, in standard O'Neill fashion, has become a steaming pile. Stumbling around in a haze of whiskey and regret, he verbally batters his wife (Erin Day) and inadvertently destroys his daughter's (Adrienne Mays) hopes for future happiness. The difficult script encourages actors to showboat even more than usual, and only Day resists that temptation: As a typically browbeaten O'Neill woman, she's a humble, frumpy vision of genuine despair.

And hey, the show's free. "Theater is like food," explains one cast member; I guess that means food should be free, too. Me, I'll take groceries over theater any day—but I'll gladly pay for both. I mean, isn't product more important than price? And these days, who really expects to get first-rate entertainment for nothing?

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