Let’s get a couple of things real straight before we get to the meat of this.
I am a guy's guy. I like the idea of sitting around the campfire, chewing on tobaccy, swearing, spitting and talking about the girls we knew or want to know.
Put a book of poetry in front of me, and I’m liable to reach for a glass of Wild Turkey, Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue and a cigarette (even though I no longer smoke).
I have a lot of respect for Shakespeare. I kind of like Robert Frost, and Maya Angelou has written a few things I like.
But Emily Dickinson? Forget it. No way. Birds, harps and flowers. Not for me.
That is why I am so surprised how very much I liked ‘The Belle of Amherst," William Luce’s one person play about Emily Dickinson. The production opened at Renaissance Theaterworks Friday night.
The one person in the play is Emily Dickinson. Jenny Wanasek, a veteran Milwaukee actor, does the honors.
Emily Dickinson has long been the darling of the egghead world. Teachers and academics the world over absolutely love her.
In this production, you find out how absolutely special and interesting she is, and how serious and meaningful her poetry is.
Any one person play depends on large part on the person in the spotlight, both the character and the actor. Last year, the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre got it right with James Ridge in "Under the Lintel."
And this year, Renaissance got it so very right.
Rather than some flighty fragile creature occasionally spreading magic dust on a page and ending up with some frothy poem, this Dickinson is a woman of dignity, charm and good humor.
She has a grace about her as she takes life, in all its glory and gore, and creates poetry to either explain it or pay tribute to it.
The subjects that Wanasek's Emily deals with are endless. She talks and writes of love, childhood, parenthood, grief, sorrow, loneliness, joy, death, religion, nature, heartbreak and intellectual curiosity.
It is a journey that Wanasek travels with absolute brilliance. It would be so easy to play this Emily as a lighthearted weakling, but none of that for Wanasek. She gives this woman passions and courage, and takes the audience along on her journey. She’s funny and sad, and shows again why she is an actor at the absolute top of her game.
Dickinson is absorbed in the world around her, but especially intrigued and honoring of words. She describes the words "circumference" and "phosphorous" as "words to lift your hat to."
The same can well be said of Emily Dickinson, Renaissance and Jenny Wanasek. They are a trio to lift your hat to.
"The Belle of Amherst" runs from Oct. 18 through Nov. 10 at Renaissance Theaterworks. For more information about times and tickets, visit their website.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published Dec. 5, 2013
'Tis the season to be jolly. But what does it mean for something ike a city or a county? What makes the Milwaukee family jolly or happy? As the old year leaves at the end of holiday season Dave Begel is trying to get a handle on what we need to be a happy place.
Published Dec. 3, 2013
Has football changed so much that when your starting quarterback goes down you might as well toss your chips on the felt and walk away from the table?
Published Nov. 30, 2013
Christmas stories need a moment to galvanize an audience and make the story a memorable one, maybe bring some tears and possibly make people think a little differently about the holiday. Something like George Bailey getting the money. Or when Santa proves to be the real thing in "Miracle on 34th Street." On that score - and on every other - "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" hits the mark.
Published Nov. 28, 2013
Thanksgiving is here, so here's some of what Dave Begel is thankful for, not just today, but most of the time.
Published Nov. 27, 2013
During Ryan Braun's news conference, he talked about how he wasn't going to get into specifics about what had happened and that he was only focused on moving forward. The problem with that answer to questions from reporters is that it makes Braun continue to look like he's a liar.
Published Nov. 26, 2013
I know this is the season when we are supposed to be thankful for stuff. And I want to play, too. I'm thankful this Green Bay Packers season is almost over and we can all get on with fixing things for next year.
Published Nov. 24, 2013
There are a lot of different things you can expect when you go to the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, but you would never expect this. A ballet. Right on the stage of the Quadracci Powerhouse. And with "Noises Off," a farce written by Michael Frayn and directed by KJ Sanchez, the Rep has staged a show that has everything that a great ballet has, except the music.
Published Nov. 24, 2013
A frequent pitfall for playwrights that write comedies is a temptation to wind things up at the end with some meaningful reform for the comics that turns them into serious human beings. Most often those attempts end up being sappy and sending an audience home with decidedly mixed feelings wondering whether they were supposed to be laughing all that time. Nothing like that plagues "Things Being What They Are."
Published Nov. 23, 2013
Go ahead and pick any adjective you want. Not one of them - or all of them - can possibly do justice to the glorious production of "Les Misérables" that opened Friday night at the Skylight Music Theatre. But blessed may come close for those lucky enough to see it. After it was over, I felt blessed.
Published Nov. 22, 2013
Writing a play is a difficult proposition just by itself. Then transferring the play from the page to the stage adds yet another layer of potential - and problems - to the process. All of this is important background information because Thursday night was the premiere of "The Old Garde," a play written by veteran Milwaukee journalist Bruce Murphy, and produced and directed by Mark Bucher at his Boulevard Theatre.