nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
August 21, 2011
“Human life, indeed all life, is poetry. We are works of art, but we are not the artist.”
This is the basic philosophy of an amazing woman, Lou Salomé. This passionate and resilient woman was able to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Nietzsche and Rilke. Indeed her poetic sense is matched by her fierce and feisty intellect.
She’s dumped a lover and he’s killed himself. She takes us, the audience, through the pain of love, and loss. But, through the loss she is able to delve deeper into herself, and the nature of the human psyche. When something is lost, something is always gained. This is not only an elemental rule of love, but of life as well.
John Carter has written a lovely script. Not only is he a gifted storyteller, but he has a strong poetic sense. Lou’s speech is rhythmical, filled with imagery and emotion. It also conveys her wit and sense of humor. Carter is a man with some life under his belt, and you can feel that in his writing.
The play is directed by Tina Benko. I’m already a fan of hers and the works she’s done with The New Group. She stages Carter’s play with subtlety and force—not unlike the character of Lou herself. It’s hard to tell where Benko’s work ends and the text and acting take over. That blend resonates and works perfectly.
As Lou Elena McGhee is superb. Lou needs to be a woman of extraordinary intelligence. McGhee pulls this off. She has one of those voices that could read you the phone book, and you’d be enthralled. McGhee is also beautiful, so it’s believable that she could have and did seduce great minds.
My biggest complaint when I see plays based on the lives of historical characters is that they often fall into a conveying of quirky facts and statistics. Lou is refreshing in the sense that the play captures the spirit of this woman.
Luíza Gustavovna Salomé was called the first feminist by some. Certainly she was a unique woman and a prototype of many radical female intellectuals to come. One thing for sure. There was no one quite like her.