E. E. Cummings enjoys a lasting popularity that belies the usual American disregard for poetry. Forty years after his death, his collections are still in print, his style easily recognized by even casual readers. At the same time, Cummings never quite achieved the stature of his modernist contemporaries like T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams or Wallace Stevens. Cummings’s play “Him” helps explain both the popularity and the relative critical neglect. On the one hand, the play offers an adventurous and witty take on enduring issues like social justice and the failures of love. On the other hand, its frequent sloppiness and self-indulgence leave long stretches of the play feeling rather like an interminable “Saturday Night Live” sketch. Viaduct Theatre has created a splendid setting for the play: a live band providing Tin Pan Alley accompaniment and Robert Whitaker’s carnivalesque scene design give the production an appropriately David Lynchian look (especially since “Him” is the most negative depiction of impending fatherhood I know of next to “Eraserhead”). But “Him” would require a genuinely brilliant staging to get past the play’s major flaws. Paul D’Addario’s gratingly one-note Doctor, Julia Siple’s tepid Me, and David Schulz’s supercilious Him, combined with lackluster staging, make it only too clear why “Him” is seldom performed. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.