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Klonsky and Schwartz

In its Garden State premiere, "Klonsky and Schwartz" proves to be a relentlessly wordy barrage, chronicling a poet's tragic descent into madness. Romulus Linney's short two-hander offers a turbulent thumbnail portrait of reclusive writer Delmore Schwartz and his long relationship with Milton Klonsky, his fiercely protective protege.

In its Garden State premiere, “Klonsky and Schwartz” proves to be a relentlessly wordy barrage, chronicling a poet’s tragic descent into madness. Romulus Linney’s short two-hander offers a turbulent thumbnail portrait of reclusive writer Delmore Schwartz and his long relationship with Milton Klonsky, his fiercely protective protege.

Legendary scribe Schwartz is acted by a demonically propelled John FitzGibbon, who peaks so early in the short play that the character becomes exhaustively repetitive and a bit of an intellectual bore. Relentlessly pursued by a metaphorical Dybbuk, the poet moves from one fleabag hotel to another, or perhaps to a bench in Bryant Park. He proves so elusive that the National Endowment for the Arts is unable to locate him to award the poet a $10,000 check.

The star-crossed Schwartz was an offstage character in Donald Margulies’ “Collected Stories” as the subject of a romantic relationship with writer Ruth Steiner.

David Volin provides subtle contrast as Klonsky, a fledgling scribe with a lecherous appetite for young blondes. A writer of “good doggerel and ugly satire,” Klonsky has an abiding affection for his irresponsible mentor, whom he visits in a Bellevue mental ward.

Their conversations and verbal scraps amount to a great deal of showy single-word or short-phrase exchanges that prove pretentious, as does the glib name-dropping of poets, cowboy stars and radio comics.

The clowning, scrapping pair brings a kind of vaudeville spirit to the narrative with ancient Joe Penner jokes and knockabout rivalry.

While the play begins at fever pitch and never lets up, New Jersey Rep a.d. SuzAnne Barabas has successfully harnessed the boundless energy of the literary odd couple and the relentless pace of Linney’s awkwardly dizzying narrative.

Jessica Parks has designed a flavorful doll’s-house re-creation of old Times Square with its glittering neon landmarks.

Klonsky and Schwartz

Lumia Theater, Long Branch, N.J.; 65 seats; $30 top

  • Production: A New Jersey Repertory Theater presentation of a play in one act by Romulus Linney. Directed by SuzAnne Barabas.
  • Crew: Set, Jessica Parks; lighting, Jill Nagle; costumes, Patricia E. Doherty; sound, Merek Royce Press; production stage manager, Rose Riccardi. Opened, reviewed Aug. 17, 2005. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MIN.
  • Cast: Milton Klonsky - David Volin Delmore Schwartz - John FitzGibbon