Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Things as They Are
Playwrights Local
Review by David Richey

Robert Hawkes
Photo by Steve Wagner Photography
Things as They Are brings some wonderful things to a Cleveland audience. This is a new play by David Todd, and it is a joy to be surprised with every new line. The playwright has tackled a tough subject, that of poet and insurance executive Wallace Stevens (1879-1955). This staged biography at Playwrights Local sears the audience with the problems in Stevens' life. When I was in college we studied Stevens' poetry. However, our study was incomplete—we did not dig into his life to get a more complete picture of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Todd has done the research necessary to make Stevens' poetry more meaningful.

Todd has developed the story further by adding original music by Ben Chasny. The music has some of the flavor of the era in which Stevens lived. The music and the story are in some scenes set to dance and movement choreography by Michael Hinton. Keep in mind, this is a story with music; it is not a musical. Some scenes include commedia dell'arte choreography by Cleo D'Orio.

The story moves through Wallace Stevens' life, from a young man to a dying man in his 70s. Jason Markouc (Young Wallace Stevens) and Robert Hawkes (Mature Wallace Stevens) are excellent in their respective roles. The script and Anjanette Hall (director) permit the audience to watch Stevens grow and mature, the character on stage slowly modulating through life.

Steven's wife Elsie, played by Laura Starnik, evolves through mental illness and we see the impact she has on Wallace, both personally and professionally.

The story moves well and holds the audience's interest, but it is too long. The running time is two hours and thirty minutes, with a 15 minute intermission. So much of it works well. However, I think it would be better with a few sections cut. Perhaps the commedia dell-arte scenes could be removed or shortened, or some of the ballet scenes.

Actors Hawkes and Markouc let their characters meld together to bring an evolving man to life in Things as They Are.

Playwrights Local's Things as They Are through May 27, 2017, in Reinberger Auditorium, 5209 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio. For more information, visit or call 216-302-8856.

Playwright: David Todd
Original score: Ben Chasny
Mature Wallace Stevens: Robert Hawkes
Young Wallace Stevens: Jason Markouc
Elsie Stevens: Laura Starnik
Holly Stevens: Tessa Hager
Garrett Stevens, W. C. Williams and Ensemble: Robert Branch
Sybil Gage, Marianne Moore and Ensemble: Kenzie Critzer
Kate Stevens, Mrs. Baldwin and Ensemble: Jeanne Task
Robert Frost, Walter Arensburg and Ensemble: Marco Liguori
Crispin, Ed Livingood and Ernest Hemingway: Liam Stilson
Guitar: Ben Chasny
Synthesizer/ Electronics: John Elliott
Costume Designer: Inda Blatch-Geib
Commedia dell-arte choreographer: Cleo D'Orio:
Dance/Movement Choreographer: Michael Hinton
Fight Choreographer: Dusten Welch
Dramaturg: Elizabeth Tofig
Director: Anjanette Hall

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