Romulus Linney’s CHILDE BYRON opened at Allens Lane Theater Friday evening. The story chronicles the life of the venerated yet controversial poet from the late 18thcentury through the eyes of his daughter Ada Lovelace, skillfully played by Jennifer Summerfield. Ada summons the spirit of Byron and steps into the role of her mother of the same name, in an attempt to understand the father that eluded her most of her life. Aptly directed by Ellen Wilson Dilks, CHILDE BYRON explores the life of the poet in an attempt to define the Byronic Hero, and all that the phrase encompasses to a modern audience.
Much more the dark and brooding fop, the portrait Linney’s play paints of the scandalous Byron begs the question, has the epic Dandy grown bitter? While the poet is very much the romantic, according to his poetry, the man was very much the epitome of licentiousness and insensitivity towards life and particularly, his own family, while holding the entourage too high in regard. Chris Braak’s skilled portrayal of the “hero” gave us an idea of the way this man related to his following, the modern-day posse, and all the shenanigans that ensued in the poet’s short life. Braak commanded the stage in his portrayal, extremely competent in tackling the verse. Andre Jones and Deanna Dougherty deftly stood out as members of his following, as well as his half-sister, played by Loretta Vasile.
My problem with this play is that it really wasn’t that intriguing, with little to no plot. I can appreciate Linney wanting to pay homage to a talented poet, and director Dilks wanting to share it, but Byron’s story really isn’t that interesting, funny, or tragic. He comes off as another aristocratic intellect that needs to make up for the lack of depth in his life with self-indulgence and debauchery. Historians agree Byron may have well suffered from bi-polar disorder; Linney’s piece never really touches on that, albeit his version was probably most historically accurate. A memorable line from the show pretty much sums it up for me, “I was born to squander, and you know it.” Bryon squandered his talent, his precious daughter and wife, and tragically, any real meaning to his life. Because at the end of the day, though his words are beautiful, talk is cheap.
The costumes were beautiful, some of the acting very fine, especially from Braak and Summerfield, but it wasn’t nearly enough for me. Kudos to the cast for some fine performances, if you’re a die hard fan of Byron, go and you will enjoy. Patrons are invited to BYOB and/or enjoy a light menu before the show.
by Romulus Linney
Directed by Ellen Wilson Dilks
Sept 28 – Oct 13, 2012
Allens Lane Theater
Allens Lane & McCallum St
Philadelphia, PA 19119