nytheatre.com review by Mitchell Conway
August 12, 2008
Although I was previously unfamiliar with the work of Sylvia Plath, the production Ariel View definitely sparked my interest. The script is a hodgepodge of texts by Plath and others' comments on her life and work. Even though a great deal of the text is powerful, I must say that I've never seen depression and suicide treated with such a lack of seriousness.
It seemed to me as though this lightness was intentional on the part of the performers. I am unsure why. It's not as though they made it into a joke, but it was as though they wanted to avoid being depressing. I do not understand why pain was shrugged off and suicide attempts discussed jovially, unless this is a component of Plath's writing that I am unfamiliar with. From the sections of her writing I was exposed to in the production, this attitude did not seem apparent. Instead, they seemed to be a draining expression of deep inner anguish.
Andrea Graugnard and Daniel J LeBlanc, who conceived and directed this show, have taken a great risk in their approach to dramatizing poetry. Some scenes are more realistic, but most use impressionistic movement. From Plath's work I would expect more violent or at least vigorous movement to coincide with it. The graceful and unnecessarily literal choreography felt totally disconnected from the emotional life of the poetry, with a few exceptions.
Again, my lack of familiarity with Plath's writing and reputation may be the reason for feeling this disconnect. The creators may believe Plath's work is taken seriously in a way that is not merited. So in order to break down the image of Plath as a deeply pained poet, they have her son casually shrug off her attempted suicide and, in general, represent her as immature.
It's hard for me to accept the assertion that depression is childish. To argue that Plath's pain is feigned or unwarranted, however much it may demystify her character, asks us to disregard her.