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Theater Review (LA): Edge by Paul Alexander with Angelica Torn at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

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Edge is a remarkable play about the life of doomed poetess Sylvia Plath. The play begins on the last day of her life, February 11 1963, as she reviews the events and people that led her to her suicide. She had attempted suicide several times in the past, and her attempt in 1953 became the subject of her heartbreaking and now classic novel The Bell Jar.

The play was written and brilliantly directed by Paul Alexander. It was originally developed at the Actor’s Studio in 2003 and has since toured Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and several cities in the US. Alexander, originally a reporter for Time magazine, has written several nonfiction works that have appeared in the New York Times, The Village Voice, and mostly Rolling Stone. He has also authored several screenplays including Brothers in Arms, about John Kerry’s experiences in Vietnam, and written biographies of Kerry, James Dean, Andy Warhol, J.D. Salinger, and Sylvia Plath.

Alexander’s play is blessed with actress Angelica Torn, the daughter of Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. The breeding shows in spades. Torn lives every moment in the play fully, and through her actions and attention to detail makes the minimalist set by William St. John come to life. What is really remarkable is that she is funny, albeit sarcastically so, but she shows great wit in her choices for telling this harrowing tale.

Plath spends most of the play recounting her terrible relationship with her father, but saves her best barbs for her ex-husband Ted Hughes. Their relationship had many S&M aspects to it, and in jaw-dropping honesty Plath admits her compliance. When Hughes leaves her for a “cow whore” it proves her undoing.

Torn dashes through the script as a woman trying to get it all in before she dies. The pace is often frantic and the emotions highly distraught, but it is mostly told with a biting sense of humor. Torn has won plaudits wherever she has performed this work. This is a definite “must–see.” Edge plays at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble through March 2.

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