“The Marriage of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein” by Edward Einhorn

May 20th, 2017 § 0 comments

Theatrical productions about GertrudeandAlice, whether play, musical or opera, just keep coming! The newest is The Marriage of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein by New York writer, Edward Einhorn presented at the HERE multi-arts center in New York City through May 28th. Einhorn also directs the show.

The play is a farcical frolic with members of GertrudeandAlice’s charmed circle – you name them, they’re there: Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Beach, T.S. Eliot, Virgil Thomson, Sherwood Anderson, Carl Van Vechten, Alfred Lord Whitehead, Francis Picabia, Henri Matisse, Thornton Wilder and the Steins, Leo, Michael and Sarah. Then there are nods to the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Moses and Solomon and assorted wives and mistresses – it is a farce after all, with some serious moments.

The happy couple: Alyssa Simon as Alice, Mia Katigbak as Gertrude (Photo Richard Termine)

To make the show even more Chaplinesque with a touch of the Keystone Cops, two actors play all of these roles in ensemble with GertrudeandAlice and perform the whole pre and post wedding mayhem within just under 90 minutes! (The play’s silent-movie style cavorting is most appropriate since Gertrude was a big Charlie Chaplin fan and apparently had quite a chat with him in 1935 at the Beverly Hills dinner party in her honor during her U.S. lecture tour.)

In addition to the who’s who of early 20th century Parisiana, the topics covered run the gamut from marriage to money; from genius to greatness; from homosexuality to heaven; from love to lust; from candor to cannabis; from insecurities to “I-ness”.

The marriage ceremony. (Photo Richard Termine)

GertrudeandAlice, played by Mia Katigbak and Alyssa Simon, balance powerful moments with sensitive ones and interchange identities, which reinforces Stein’s and Toklas’s real life symbiotic relationship. The classic, man-spread pose in Picasso’s Stein portrait, provides a effective leitmotif. But while this GertrudeandAlice lead the charge, they are buoyed by Jan Leslie Harding’s and Grant Neale’s cavalcade of greats who invade from every corner of the stage.

A bullfight with Hemingway and Picasso! (Photo Richard Termine)

It reminded me of one of those Vanity Fair magazine illustrations from the 1920’s or 1930s in which famous people of the times are gathered and there is a numbered chart in the corner of the drawing to help you identify the celebrities.

Illustration by Miguel Cavarrubius, 1938

Edward Einhorn’s writing creatively embraces Stein’s verbiage and cadence with his own touches of humor and enough historical references to satisfy the GertrudeandAlice fan, English or art history major, 1920s Francophile, or anyone looking for an enjoyable, thoughtful, theatrical romp.

For those who revel in and like pondering Steinian word play, it’s here. For those who like eaves dropping in the company of “Midnight in Paris” personas, it’s here. And for those who prefer life’s bigger issues presented with light-hearted touches, but still getting the message across, it’s here.  A toast to an imaginative, multi-faceted production.


And some gifts for the happy couple: here are two contemporary “wedding” dresses from the current Rei Kawakubo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, home of Picasso’s Stein portrait!

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