BOTTOM LINE: Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath is a quirky one-woman rendition of Sylvia Plath's struggle with life and death using video, appliance puppetry, and a dance break.
In the one-woman show Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath, while Sylvia Plath waits with her head in the oven, the lack of oxygen to her brain causes multi-media hallucinations wherein the troubled authoress revisits her life and the major traumas that contributed to her infamous depression.
The unique element to this Plath-inspired performance is its humor and humanism. Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath is not the expected maudlin quagmire of depression you might expect it to be, and the videos are not abstract studies of bare trees and wintery, cracked sidewalks. On the contrary, the world of Plath's hypoxia hallucination is a bright, clever, hyper-real setting where the Burton-esque clothing pops, ovens talk to you, and your life flashes not before your eyes but on a screen mounted on the back wall.
The screen leads the virtues of this diversified one-woman show. Projections on the back drop reveal Plath's thoughts as she thinks them, and it also gives a forum for Plath to both relive and battle with her own memories. The tone is exaggerated and sometimes tongue in cheek, which gives the show an approachable artiness. The only sticky moment is when the expression of the show bleeds into a stumbly dance break that needs more rehearsal.
Plath's hallucination is a magical world where cooking shows are a means to therapy, memories are interactive, and kitchenware transforms into armor, telephones, and even a phallus.
Written by Edward Anthony, directed by Daniel S. Zimbler, and starring Elisabeth Gray, I Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath is delightful to both Plath enthusiasts and neophytes alike. Instead of being browbeaten by poetry, the audience is invited into the warm world of a complex, funny, brilliant woman as she reclaims both her life and her death.
(Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath plays at 59E59 Theatre C, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park, through October 31, 2010. Performances are Tuesdays at 7:30 PM, Wednesdays at 1 PM and 7:30 PM, Thursdays through Fridays at 8:30 PM, Saturdays at 2:30 PM and 8:30 PM, and Sundays at 3:30 PM. Tickets are $25 and are by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at 59E59.org.)