Sylvia Plath is dissected and inspected to help her daughter Frieda draw conclusions about her in this well-crafted and riveting show. The real Frieda probably wouldn't appreciate this candid display, but Plath fans and poetry fans in general will for its cheekiness, great performances, and the writers' deep appreciation for the subject.
Sylvia Plath’s daughter, Frieda, may be regarded like Bob Dylan’s son, Jacob (apple not falling close enough to the tree) but she had something very poignant to say about how the public treated her mother's death and life in her own poem, Readers: “When she came out of the oven / They had gutted, peeled / And garnished her / They called her theirs....” Andrea Graugnard and Daniel J. LeBlanc do some gutting and peeling of their own in Ariel View: an original piece concerning sylvia plath. But instead of the negative slant given to the process in the poem, Ariel View (a play on Ariel, Plath’s second book, as well as Plath's own perception from heaven of what they've done with her story) pays homage to the poet's literary prowess and suffering, with finesse, creativity, and a glimmer of brilliance.
Ariel View opens with Frieda trying to form an opinion of her deceased mother: as she lugs a suitcase filled with biographical material and commentary on stage, the energetic, athletic and talented cast of seven splice Plath's poetry, The Bell Jar characters, and prominent figures from her professional and personal life into a captivating exploration of Plath's life. The imagery, dance, pop culture, and dissenting opinions are relentlessly entertaining, and in its 80 minutes, Ariel View never ceases to captivate as it blurs the lines between Plath's poetry, commentaries and the 10% of original material that Graugnard and Le Blanc contribute. Their tight direction also allows the cast to go seamlessly from playing characters that perform Plath’s work to characters that criticize and idolize it without missing a beat. Segments such as “The Plath Doll” and “The Poet’s Wholesale” are particularly inspired, making fun of the public’s reception of Plath as well as showing disdain for it.
Apart from some musical interludes between scenes by Nathan Toups that drown out the actors, this nearly flawless show provokes thought, understanding, sympathy, reflection and exploration of not only Plath's life but how society treats artists in general. And it's a poetry fan's dream! The staging of “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” are sure to delight even those not familiar with Plath's work because they’re delivered with desperation and fire by the performers. Well-conceived and orchestrated, Ariel View is a must-see at Fringe.
Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street. Tickets: $15. http://www.fringenyc.org/. Friday 8 at 5pm, Tuesday 12th at 9:30pm, Saturday 16 at 7:15pm, Sunday 17 at noon, Wednesday 20th at 9:45pm