John Harney’s “Ezra Pound Couldn’t Sleep Here” presented by Valcour Island Productions is an ambitious play, a well acted play, but not yet a really good play. The main character of this production is Maddy (played by Suli Myrie), the daughter of a former Congressman. She gets caught in the high life—both literally and metaphorically—as part of a group involved in robbing open houses and in some significant drug use.
…Graham and Gencarelli…captivating…
We meet Maddy as a patient at St. E’s (ostensibly Ward 8’s St. Elizabeth Hospital) where she is being evaluated to go to trial for her crimes. Maddy has tremendous anxiety about her downward spiral from being a successful PR professional into now being in a psychiatric hospital. Yet you never quite connect with Myrie’s depiction of her. Instead, it is her counterparts on stage who are the most captivating. Veteran actor D. Scott Graham is delicious as “Mr. Summer Man” who has tormented Maddy since he first visited her one summer in the Adirondacks. Neither the audience nor the characters in this play know if Mr. Summer Man is real, but my goodness—in his straw hat, khakis, and loafers—Graham brings such a delightful airiness to the lines he delivers. This character recalls, and is as good as, Brad Oscar as the Devil in Arena’s 2005 production of “Damn Yankees.” You relish in the lines that Harney gives him, like “the tongue of Zaccarias loosens at last,” as he prances around the Ravitch Hall stage. Anna Gencarelli, as Charlotte, pulls you into this show in quite the different way as the temptress who lures Maddy into crime and drugs.
Despite these two performances of Graham and Gencarelli, the play is not yet there. Technically, there were challenges at the performance I attended—the A/V system had feedback throughout the evening and the lights inadvertently went out on Graham during a scene. Overall, this is an effort at a psychological drama, with Maddy in the foreground throughout and Gencarelli pulling double-duty stage left as her psychiatrist, trying to piece together what has gone wrong with her patient for an upcoming trial. Yet it is that other half of the play, with Gencarelli and Melvin Smith (as a former Congressman turned lobbyist), which does not pull you in nearly as much. District audiences will understand Smith’s Congressman Yount, filled with name dropping and ambition, yet Director Emily Dalton does not fit the mood of his scenes into the other half of the play. For a psychological thriller, mood is just so important. You are so captivated by Graham as he brings out such a playful eeriness to this play, that you just don’t want the rationality of the other side of your stage. There just cannot be two such uneven tenors for this show to work as a play. Alternatively, for those who saw Studio’s “People, Places, and Things” in 2022, there can be such a thrill from a consistently terse psychological drama.
Running Time: One hour with no intermission.
Advisory: Recommended for ages 13+ and up. Profanity.
“Ezra Pound Couldn’t Sleep Here” has one more performance on July 23, 2023. Go online for tickets. For more information and tickets for the festival which runs through July 23, 2023, go to the Capital Fringe website.