'Ecstasy in living': Kate Fry is a perfect Emily Dickinson in creaking 'Belle of Amherst'

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 05:33:50 AM. REVIEW: “The Belle of Amherst” at Court Theatre: Kate Fry is Emily Dickinson. (3 stars)
“I find ecstasy in living,” wrote the American poet Emily Dickinson, “the mere sense of living is joy enough.” So let us begin with that, dear reader, let us just let that sentence lie there, in the hope that it might improve your day at a moment when being existentially ebullient is neither fashionable nor easy. I suppose in fairness to Dickinson, who was both lyrical and honest, I should add that the deaths of those she loved eventually undermined her optimism: "The Dyings have been too deep for me,” she wrote in 1884, two years before her own demise, “and before I could raise my Heart from one, another has come." “The Belle of Amherst,” the 1976 solo play by William Luce that on Broadway was long associated with the late, great Julie Harris and is revived this fall at the Court Theatre under the direction of Sean Graney, is mostly set, very shrewdly, when Dickinson is 53. Life retained few illusions, but her phosphorescence had not yet dimmed. That quality, that light within, is just part of what the actress Kate Fry has to impart to the personification of this most precious of American poets. This hardly is the first time I’ve attached “luminous” to Fry’s name — I’ve long thought her at least the equal of any actress of her generation in Hollywood — but there is something especially apropos to do so this time. This was a marriage devoutly to be wished. This also was not an easy assignment, and not just because Luce conceives of Dickinson as such a chatterbox, a quality...Read more
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