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Review: ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business’

  • Gordon Clapp in the one-man show “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” at the Peterborough Players. Feb. 2020 Courtesy Photo—

  • Gordon Clapp in the one-man show “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” at the Peterborough Players. Courtesy Photo

Published: 2/10/2020 11:25:23 AM

Poetry, as most art forms claim to be, is interpretive. One could read a poem like “The Road Not Taken” with its fairytale-esque imagery and assume it’s just an observation on a forested stroll. One could also imbue it with a detailed analysis of desire and choice within the human conscious and subconscious. Whatever the interpretation and as fun as speculation is, one might also take the third untaken road, the one covered perhaps a little more densely with yellowed leaves, and just listen a little closer to the poet.

There’s the charm of A. M. Dolan’s “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” right there. It’s like attending a lecture from Robert Frost himself as he explains and reads his own words and invites the audience to follow as he waits for another few verses to find their way to him.

“Robert Frost: This Verse Business” stars Gordon Clapp and is directed by Players’ artistic director Gus Kaikkonen.

Well-known Frost poems “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “Mending Wall”, “Birches”, “The Death of the Hired Man” and, of course, “The Road Not Taken” among others appear in recitations biting with dry and effortlessly entertaining wit. The very essence of Frost’s work, the rich metaphors and philosophies, the subtle humor, all come alive and breathe new life upon a stage that, for a little under an hour and a half feels not like a stage but a small world all its own. Couple that with the expression of Frost’s words, words which won him four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, which come so organically that it hardly seems they have been written down, more that he is simply speaking them as the thoughts occur, and you have got a recipe for something truly magical.

This feeling is thanks to both Kaikkonen’s intimate direction and Clapp’s brilliant portrayal of Frost. Clapp, whose reputation precedes him by his Emmy award-winning role on “NYPD Blue” and his multiple other turns on stage and screen, embodies Frost fully, beyond the mere physical resemblance, to a point where it feels less like watching an actor as Frost and more like watching Frost himself.

The idyllic New England landscapes, hand-painted with nostalgic language, that make Frost’s work so notable find an exquisite home here amidst a background of the very same forests and trees from those verses. It’s this too that aids in creating such a familiar air to the play. Knowing that the small world on stage is so like the one we immediately occupy, full of the same open-ended speculation alongside the obvious visual similarities, builds an environment that is wholly comforting.

“Robert Frost: This Verse Business” marks the last show of the Peterborough Players 2019/2020 winter season. 

The show opened Thursday and runs through Feb. 16. More information and tickets are available at www.peterboroughplayers.org.




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