NEW YORK–Viewers get a snapshot of Dylan Thomas, and those expecting a biographical look at the Welsh writer known for his boozing as much as his genius will be disappointed. But those who can sit tight for a focused show where words mean more than action will be rewarded.
This one-man presentation zeros in on snippets of lectures Thomas gave in the U.S. and on dramatizations of poems they introduce. Both lectures and readings are left to Bob Kingdom, playing Thomas, who’s nothing short of remarkable.
Burly, with a shock of red hair, Kingdom is Thomas’ self-described “unmade bed.” And when reading Thomas’ poems, he doesn’t so much act as devour the assorted characters. His doughy face and round baby blues switch from little boy to barmaid so effortlessly, you’d swear he was possessed.
Kingdom plays Thomas with such intensity, his eyes in a trance, that he literally never seems to blink; one gets the feeling he needs to be doused during takes. It’s mesmerizing.
During the lectures, however, this intensity leaves viewers feeling slightly ungrounded. Kingdom’s passionate yet straightforward interpretation of the talks , which are filled with self-deprecating and cutting humor, leaves one wondering in what tone and spirit the lectures were meant to be taken.
The direction by Anthony Hopkins is uninspired, and the theatrically staged production is bare-bones: Backdrops are blank, furniture almost non-existent (lecturn, chair) and props kept to a minimum (trenchcoat, notepad, glass of water).
While some might argue that the writer’s words are enough, it seems unfortunate that the producers didn’t take better advantage of their chosen medium, especially as Thomas’ rich world so easily lends itself to visual interpretation.