Jeff Berg as Ezra Pound / Photo by Kate Gibson
Reviewed by Amanda Halkiotis
Ezra Pound, the Modernist poet, became a controversial expatriate when he fled during World War II to regularly dispatch ludicrous left-wing commentary on American economics and politics from
Pound’s signature stream-of-consciousness lends itself to Roetzheim’s vignette-style monologues as the play (and spotlight) revolves around the different witnesses brought into the courtroom to be interrogated. Berg takes on a total of seven different characters, from the Department of Justice’s prosecutor (his deep Southern drawl and Bible-Belt morals) to members of Pound’s literary circle (Berg embodies both Allen Ginsberg and Ernest Hemingway in this play, and as Pound he reminisces of Lost Generation comrades during his time in Paris such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein) to the irrational and impossible Pound himself. By dividing the stage into zones, Roetzheim makes it easy for the audience to identify scene transitions without harsh fadeouts or the untimely use of music, and also gives Berg space to transform. This clear staging showcases Berg’s range of tones, limitless energy, and his fun-loving, engaging approach to his role: at times he flirts directly with the audience, and even takes one onstage with him as a dance partner while talking of the parties he attended in Europe.
As an effeminate Italian socialite who knew Pound in
While audiences may need to brush up on their American literature to follow all the namedropping, Pound is no dusty regurgitation of literary criticism. True, it has enough high-brow appeal to indulge poetry buffs but it’s also fun-loving and stimulating thanks to the intelligent but never patronizing script and the brilliant lead actor. Jeff Berg performs with so much assurance, it’s obvious he’s done his homework, bringing honor and homage to the challenging topical landscape Roetzheim has laid out. Together they fuse the two genres of poetry and theater without watering down either, making for an incredibly well-researched script about a man who has reached his breaking point and the special opportunity for audiences to directly react to all of it.
Pound (1 hour, 15 minutes; no intermission)
The Studio Theater at Theater Row (410 West 42nd Street)
Tickets (www.ticketcentral.com or 212.714.2442): $18
Performances (through 6/19): Tues. @7pm, Weds.-Sats.@8pm