House lights are up, audience chatting. A young woman walks onto a sparse stage with only a chair in the center and a desk on the upstage left corner. She sits at the desk, buried deep in her writing, having no care about the patrons who have paid their money to see her. With the announcement made and the lights dimmed, we are transcended into the dark, subversive world of a doomed poet in the last day of her life (or so she will say constantly throughout). This tortured soul: Wellesley-bred scribe Sylvia Plath. The one-person show is called Edge.
Sit down, folks, it’s time for a lesson.
Edge premiered in 2003 at the DR2 Theatre in New York, then moved over to the Kings Head Theatre in England the following year. Conceived by Paul Alexander, Edge focuses on the life and not-so-subtle demise of a woman. While destined to be one of the most important scribes of her generation, her life was no picnic.
Edge picks up where Plath (Angelica Torn) is ready to spiral down into infinity. Before that, she explains how she got to this point. She discusses her upbringing and her father, who suffered a leg amputation due to diabetes. She then talks about her college years, how she struggled to be optimistic but could never pull it off.
Then Plath waxes nostalgic about the time she met her husband, Ted Hughes, a man who became her rise and her immediate downfall. It’s at this moment that she takes the audience on a trip through marriage, children and infidelity - which became the final tipping point on a short, but storied career.
Edge is the ultimate tour-de-force for any female actor, because there are ranges to maneuver and manipulate. Although the concept belongs strictly to Alexander, it’s Angelica Torn who controls the show. Torn personifies Sylvia Plath in a way that allows us to see the total inner workings of a doomed woman. Torn doesn’t try to take the “I am woman, hear me roar” route. Instead, her portrayal of Plath is intimate; she connects with the audience, making Plath human, not just literary icon.
Alexander also deserves credit for his brilliant lighting design. Both Alexander and Torn work together to give the audience a decent story without overkill. The delivers during the more powerful stories, and hits hard during the more blunt segments.
Edge is a solo performance that cannot be ignored thanks to the duo of Paul Alexander and Angelica Torn. It will continue at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in their Encore Room until March 20th. Just be careful of where you’re seated, due to the pillars' obstruction of certain segments. For tickets, please call (305) 442-4000.
COCONUT GROVE PLAYHOUSE – Edge
Starring Angelica Torn
Lighting Design by Paul Alexander
Written and Directed by Paul Alexander
-- Kevin Johnson