“Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology” at the Gracie Theatre

       In this unusual assortment of free form poems, written in 1915, describing life’s turnabouts, set in the fictional town of “Spoon River”, so christened after the real “Spoon River” which ran near “Masters'” hometown, the dead speak. The collection in its entirety consists of two hundred and twelve separate characters and their two hundred and forty-four soliloquies of conflict and tragedy. Each poem is an epitaph of dead citizens of “Spoon River” expressed by the dead themselves in various conundrums of life’s irony. With no facade’s in sight and nothing left to lose, the sorrowful dead leave us their wisdom, complaints, and observations in hopes that those who still breathe will not repeat.

       This barebones production is a soul bearing performance engaging the profuse honesty of the characters character. And with no diffusion of passion, a battle of words ensues from the pompous to the prudent, the bitterness locked away within a soul, to an open heart. The true dimension of the play came straight from the heart of the matter dealing with all that truly matters.

       Thoughts of golden angels propelling themselves through the architecture of infinity, and daunting fields of gray are but a tale to be told of shattered promises and broken dreams, unrequited loves, and parasitic relationships. The disgruntled dead still speak of their forlorn epitaphs, but their torment and pain reach much further than a mere piece of stone. It is what they’ve lived, lost, and loved. Still restless, bound, and sad even beyond the grave.

       Some were a series of caprices, and some warnings with good cause to be heeded. A longing for those who have the chance not to allow petty squabbles to destroy the very foundations of their existence, such as the good old inhabitants of the “Spoon River” community have permitted entry, and to permeate ones self with all things good, and pure of heart without the need to cheat, steal, and lie.

       The actors, “Arnold Champion”, “Ben Fields”, “Whitney Proctor”, “Britney Rezendes”, “Alexandra Todd”, and “Bill Vassar”, convinced us beyond all reason that their very spirits were giving themselves to us with apocalyptic prophetic endearment, into a realm that we as the living could not ever possibly profess to understand. But on this night, as these broken souls speak to us, the dead do speak and a loudly proclaim their many everlasting regrets without ospice, mask, or cloak.

       The night was not completely without levity as the wonderful vocal abilities of the singing section (“Darlene Cooley Mogul”, “Susan Patten”, and “Chuck Somers”) called upon an ever open array of emotion, from hilarity to the most somber, willowing about in laughter and torment, refreshingly animated, with total musical satisfaction bestowed unto us by “John Haskell” (piano and voice). 

       A most interesting premise based on the dead relinquishing their intimate thoughts to us in hopes that right living may prevail, and not to join in their dead poets society of sorrow and regret.