Monday, January 16, 2012

An Ernest One-Man Performance -- Theater Review: Hemingway's Hot Havana

Theater Review

Hemingway's Hot Havana
by and starring Brian Gordon Sinclair
Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park
Single performance

I've had a bit of a heightened interest in Ernest Hemingway of late, sparked somewhat by the 50th anniversary of his death last July 2. Despite such intentions, this still doesn't equate to much reading of his works, even his short stories, but the one-man show at the Hemingway Museum in Oak Park on Saturday was the second presentation by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation I've attended in the past 6 months.

According to his bio in the program, Brian Gordon Sinclair is "considered to be the foremost dramatic interpreter of Ernest Hemingway in the world today." I don't know if this is indeed true, but I also haven't heard of any other dramatic interpreters of 'Papa,' and Sinclair's hourlong, self-authored monologue on Hemingway's time in and fascination with Cuba, was an informative and engaging performance.

Assuming the guise of Hemingway, Sinclair spoke in the first person about Ernest's fondness for "booze, broads, boats and books," as well as bullfights, bears and, although not fitting in alliteratively, fishing. About his craft, he cited the need for writers to write in a room truly their own, with a mission to "try for something that has never been done." Near the end, referencing Hem's mental difficulties and the title character of The Old Man and the Sea, Sinclair offered "Like Santiago, I had gone further than any man had ever gone. But for me, there was no way back."

Stories also broached on women such as Jane Mason and Ava Gardner, his love of animals (particularly two dogs who met unfortunate ends) and the time when he shot a pirate who had the gall to climb aboard his beloved boat, the Pilar. 

Though it was chronologically beyond the bounds of Hemingway's time in Cuba, Sinclair--who had previously penned a six-play series about the Oak Park native--also cited Ernest's depression and ECT treatments, which combined to debilitate his memory and creativity, and ultimately his suicide by shotgun.

While impressed with the two 30-minute acts Sinclair put together, the hour was about the proper extent for this type of performance, and even as such there were parts where my attention waned. But I could see where I might enjoy a longer piece covering similar ground, if perhaps done as a small ensemble work. Perhaps if Ernie were to be regaling a fellow on an adjoining barstool, breaking up the monologue just a bit.

With only a single performance, primarily attended by members of the EHFOP, this wasn't high theater and wasn't presented as such, but I still very much enjoyed it, in Ernest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review Seth! I totally agree with ensemble piece wherein the action and dialogue took place in a Cuban bar would have been far more engaging. I find it fascinating that after so many years that Hemingway's enigmatic, but enthralling character still attracts interest.