Review by Danny Gaisin
Robert Knuckle is a localite who has written a string of books and plays; some of which have been staged under the directorship of Willard Boudreau; another member of our community. The duo has teamed up to bring a creatively scripted and ingeniously directed winner about Ernest Miller “HEMINGWAY and HIS WOMEN”.
This scribe has been an avid fan of Hemingway’s literary output, but a bit of bias needs confessing. Bernice Kert who wrote a renowned book about the same subject was married to Morley Kert, my late mother’s first cousin! Thus, required reading.
Dundas Little Theatre & the directorial crew re-utilize the ‘August, Osage County’ set so concentration is on the cast members and the noteworthy dialogue that Knuckle has incorporated into his account The negative remarks by & about the character’s sojourn in Toronto while writing for the Star are rather heavy-handed; something very Montreal-ish. There are also numerous line repetitions but that may be nervous re-cueing rather than so written. Director Boudreau has managed to overcome the usual problem with a proscenium stage of weak projection by clever blocking and greater emphasis when the protagonists speak away from the audience. Having the principal characters reflect both the twenties era as well as Hemingway’s final days is a challenge, but by utilizing two different actors easily lets the audience follow the plot.
The 1960’s “Papa” Hemingway is portrayed by Graham Clements with an intensity that is gut-wrenchingly visceral. He accurately mirrors the mental and physical deterioration suffered by the man himself, as anyone who has witnessed such a situation will immediately identify and understand. His fourth (and last) wife is portrayed by Gail Edwards and except for the occasional displays of nervousness; she adequately renders the portrait of every woman whose husband exhibits the anger, resentment and combativeness endemic to many emotionally deteriorating men.
The other women in Hemingway’s life are played by Alix Kingston as the nurse/girl-friend of his late teen – early twenties period. She bestows a warmth and veracity to her ‘Agnes’ who nurses, then lives with him. The first wife is Hadley and Elaine Hale manages to convey the changes that the era of Ezra Pound, Morley Callahan; the Fitzgerald’s et.al. manifested on the mores of Paris circa 1925. Andrea Adcock is ‘Pauline’ and she appears totally committed to her role interpretation. Martha Gellhorn was the war correspondent of the late thirties who enticed Hemingway to travel to Spain and then became his mistress in Cuba. Maureen Dwyer gives her Martha depiction sincerity as well as showing the facets of such a ‘George Sand’ persona.
The young ‘Ernest’ is anything but! Matt Willson lacks the charisma his character of necessity had to possess and presents a surprisingly two-dimensional depiction of a persona who was larger than life and undoubtedly vigorous.
The plot’s catalyst character is ‘Mitch’ who visits the Hemingway’s in Idaho in order to obtain some additional background for a biography. Mike Wierenga confers sympathy as well as normal curiosity to his character. As a real member of the fifth estate…I liked Mike!
HEMINGWAY AND HIS WOMEN will be at the Dundas Little Theatre until May 31st.
Note: Our O.A.R. policy is that we either receive a cast photo before the performance; receive permission for a non-flash shot taken during the show or a brief post-curtain photo-op to accompany each article we publish. None were made available for this particular play.