gershon hepner

Rookie - 10 Points (5 3 38 / leipzig)

Midlife Set Of Cards - Poem by gershon hepner

In midlife we are served a set of cards
that are less promising than those
we played in springtime of our youth, like bards
presumptuously pre-empting prose.

Inspired by Christopher Isherwood’s review of Melissa James Gibson’s new play, “This” (“Does Adultery Make You an Adult? ” NYT, December 4,2009) :

“This” is a bum title for the beautiful new play at Playwrights Horizons. But then Melissa James Gibson, the author of this tart, melancholy comedy about a group of close friends entering the choppy waters of middle age, has such boundless affection for language that even the drabbest constellations of vowels and consonants — words like “this, ” in other words — are made to soar and leap like ballet dancers in full, ecstatic flight, or alternately stand alone in a sea of silence, ominous and resonant, like those pregnant pauses in a Pinter play. The author of the quirky, cult-appeal comedies “[sic]” and “Suitcase, ” both seen at the downtown powerhouse Soho Rep, Ms. Gibson graduates into the theatrical big leagues with this beautifully conceived, confidently executed and wholly accessible work, which is not just her finest to date but also the best new play to open Off Broadway this fall. Its confused but lovable characters are drawn with a fine focus and a piercing emotional depth; the dialogue sparkles with exchanges as truthful as they are clever; and as directed by Daniel Aukin, Ms. Gibson’s longtime collaborator, and performed by a flawless cast, the play’s delicate pace, richly patterned wordplay and undercurrent of rue combine to cast a moving spell that lingers in the memory, like a sad-sweet pop song whose chorus you can’t shake. This is entirely appropriate for a play about how we process love, hurt and loss by concocting tidy stories to recall our experience, or reshape it — and sometimes to frame a happier future too…
Tales of midlife adultery are an everyday staple of contemporary theater — and of contemporary life, I suppose. But Ms. Gibson’s is drawn with a scintillating verbal humor, honesty and a keen compassion that upends conventions and avoids the predictable at every turn. Dogging all the play’s characters, with the exception of the suave, self-confident Jean-Pierre, is the disquieting sense that the rules of life have been changed midway through the game, and they are now sitting with a less promising set of cards than they started out with…
But the lived-in performances from the cast make even the rare digression into lyric wordplay for its own sake enjoyable, and Ms. Gibson’s writing is so full of inventive humor and wise insight that you happily indulge her occasional excesses. For these educated, artistically inclined New Yorkers, filling the air with words is both pleasure and release, and of course a form of free therapy. It’s also a way of keeping at bay those unsettling silences, the ones the mind tends to fill with longing and regret. Which is why these people keep themselves and one another in constant conversation, even when the words they can find to describe the mess of life, the disappointments and betrayals, the tragedies, are as vague and insubstantial and seemingly meaningless as “this.”

12/4/09


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Poem Submitted: Friday, December 4, 2009



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