Review: ‘Gertrude Stein and a Companion’

  • Becky London and Dale Hodges star in ‘Gertrude Stein and a Companion.’ Courtesy Photo by Emily Fitzgerald

  • Becky London and Dale Hodges star in the Players latest show, ‘Gertrude Stein and a Companion.’ Courtesy Photo by Emily Fitzgerald—

In the Reviewer’s Chair
Published: 7/4/2019 3:47:42 PM

Colorful. That is the first word I’d use to explain this play to someone who knows nothing about it.

Right from the beginning, “Gertrude Stein and a Companion” by Win Wells is a colorful and beautiful telling of the life of poet, playwright, novelist, and occupational genius Gertrude Stein and her relationship with her muse and life partner, Alice B. Toklas.

Opening in their Parisian apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus, the stage is set for something marvelous. Paintings line the walls, themselves a splattering of colors, with Pablo Picasso’s portrait of Stein as the centerpiece of a room, which at times seems to move independently of itself starting on the day she died.

Honest. That’s the second word I would use. In essence, this is a biography of Stein told directly from her to the audience.

An autobiography of sorts written by someone else just as Stein’s own most popular work, ‘The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas’, is.

While Stein is dead at the outset of the play, she is not without life throughout it. Gertrude Stein, portrayed here by Becky London, watches on from beyond the grave and remarks of the life she has lived as Alice, portrayed by Dale Hodges, gets her affairs in order while adding her own memories to the story.

The pair tell of their meeting, of their friendship with Picasso and Hemingway, of the lives they have woven together for themselves across the beginning of the twentieth century.

All of this while maintaining an echoed version of Stein’s own writing style that’s really rather amusing to see.

Unconventional and witty, those are two more words. This is a love story in many ways, between Stein and Toklas, yes, but also between artists and their work, artists and the people and places that inspire them.

Stein and Toklas, as they go about the play, will become other people; from Hemingway to Picasso to Stein’s brother, Leo, and even to a rather irritating reporter. In doing so, they create a parody of sorts that keeps the play alive as the pair speak repeatedly to the audience as well as to each other, smashing the fourth wall to bits from the get-go and creating an informal sense to the show.

Sweet; that’s another word. It captures a feeling of familiarity for a time long gone and plays as if two friends have welcomed you into their home the way they did for so many literary marvels and masters of the avant-garde scene.

The sweetness of it doesn’t go amiss, the humor certainly isn’t trivial.

Becky London and Dale Hodges are wonderful together, charming as these two companions and, using Wells’ words, some of which came directly from Stein, they tell us a wonderful story of life and love.

Life and love that repeats certain words and actions and phrases, life and love that is neither a beginning or an ending to anything, but rather a continuation of what has already occurred.

Running from July 3 to July 14 at the Peterborough Players, “Gertrude Stein and a Companion” is an endearing and humorous tale of love and of lives thoroughly lived that’s guaranteed to make you feel something grand.

Cheyenne Heinselman is an actress and a playwright, a member of the International Thespian Society Troupe #7883, as well as an avid and opinionated supporter of the arts.

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