Review: Poetic License
A literary family breaks down in this witty, eloquent new dramedy.
Fri Feb 17 2012
Photograph: Carol Rosegg
Poetic License at 59E59
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Language is a weapon in Jack Canfora's nifty play about a prestigious poet with a nasty secret that, once it comes out, forces his loved ones to reevaluate their lives. Cynical yet fragile bard Katherine (Natalie Kuhn) brings her Shakespeare-quoting boyfriend Edmund (Ari Butler) home to meet her parents: acerbic mom Diane (Liza Vann, who dispenses barbs in between cocktails) and John (Geraint Wyn Davies), a seemingly soft-spoken professor who's celebrating his birthday and forthcoming appointment as poet laureate. At first it seems like your average dysfunctional bourgeois family gathering—mom's a bitch, daughter takes the bait, and dad plays peacemaker as the boyfriend looks on bewildered. But after one carefully dropped f-bomb, it quickly becomes clear that no one's being honest about his or her motives or, in some cases, identities.
These revelations are a big part of the fun of Poetic License, which provokes more loud laughs than deep thoughts (but no matter). It's an exceedingly clever and entertaining one-act dramedy with top-notch production values. Jessica Park's book-filled set looks lived-in, and director Evan Bergman elicits nuanced performances from all four actors, especially the hyper-articulate Davies, who, when threatened, becomes a ball of rage bursting through his gray cardigan. They say that looks can kill, but here it's words that wound, maim and ruin lives.