Poignant Irritations Melissa Lucero McCarl

Commissioned to create a play about Gertrude Stein for the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, McCarl came up with this fractured, episodic meditation on Stein's art and relationship with the faithful Alice B. Toklas. Each scene was given a semi-nonsensical title -- "Scene Sic Tea Nine: Definition of a Secretary," "Scene 5,462: Testimony Against Gertrude" -- and the play consisted of jests, insights into Stein's writing or the times, bits of biography, character exploration. Some of the scenes were a wash, but others seemed a perfect marriage of language and feeling, as when Toklas, stung at being called Stein's secretary, looked up the dictionary definition of the word, while a hovering and irrepressibly punning Stein teased at it until it became wondrous. Many of the play's bons mots were worthy of Oscar Wilde, particularly delivered with actress Billie McBride's dry wit, or in Erica Sarzin-Borrillo's flute-like tones.


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