Kathleen Chalfant is one of the theatre’s most translucent, revered and astonishing women of the theatre. She is most known for her Outer Circle Critics, Drama Desk, Obie and Lucille Lortel award winning performance as Vivian Bearing in Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Off-Broadway play Wit. She was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Most recently she was seen at The Rattlestick Theatre in Novenas for a Lost Hospital. Now she is starring as Mabel Loomis Todd, a fascinating woman, best known as Emily Dickinson’s posthumous editor in A Woman of the World, 59E59 Theaters. Presented by The Acting Company, in association with Miranda Theatre Company, for an intimate night of how wonderful theatre can be when in the hands of a master.
Mabel Loomis Todd, was an American editor, writer, painter, and had studied music. She is remembered as the editor of posthumously published editions of Emily Dickinson and also wrote several novels and logs of her travel with her husband, astronomer David Peck Todd. She accompanied Todd to Japan 1887 to photograph the solar eclipse, and she was the first Western woman to walk up Mount Fuji. David was a was a philanderer, which didn’t seem to upset Mabel as she had a lengthy affair with Emily’s married older brother William Austin Dickinson. She was a woman without conventions
Now older Mable instead of giving a lecture on Emily Dickinson she is spilling the secrets of her life in front of her daughter. A Woman of the World, was what the 1800’s community of Amherst called her to shame and hurt. It isn’t until she moves to Hog Island that that pain subsides. here nature gives her solace. Her husband is now in a mental hospital, her lover dead.
Mabel at times admits her dishonesty, her self obsession that is born out of poverty and gives us a portrayal of a woman born before her time.
Valentina Fratti’s direction allows Chalfant and the worlds free range and it is a intimate piece of theatre. The set by Cate McCrae, is reminiscent of a country green house and the lighting by Betsy Adams is subtle in its hue’s. The costumes by Candice Donnelly looks perfect on Ms. Chalfant and gives us the time period perfectly.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Rebecca Gilman’s (The Glory of Living) world premiere play, has a lot to say. As women come into their own, we find there have always been women ahead of the curve, who pave new pathways to see and express life. Chalfant and A Woman of the World embrace that and teach us not only history, but a new way of looking at life. This is a must see.
A Woman of the World: 59E59 Theaters, until Nov 17th.