PICKSINSIX Review: PAMPLONA
‘PAMPLONA’ - “LIKE STANDING BEHIND A WATERFALL.”
Mano a mano... Not a soul was shuffling in their seats at the Goodman Theatre when the lights came up on Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway in opening moments of the world premiere of PAMPLONA. The actor, who last year had to step away from the production for health reasons, has returned to complete the job. And that he did, in fine form, mano-a-mano, with the audience. Bravo!
Personal timeline... The play, written by Jim McGrath and directed by Goodman Artistic Director Robert Falls, unfolds on October 11, 1959 as Hemingway is struggling to complete an article on bullfighting in Spain for Life magazine. The particular stumbling block that proves elusive for him is the roadmap for the story of his life, told often in Hemingway’s own words in flashback – as they relate to his literary work and personal timeline – and with stunning projected images that evolve seamlessly throughout.
Skillful approach... In a profoundly reflective moment of youthful promise midway through, the dialogue turns to Hemingway’s World War I service as a Red Cross ambulance volunteer when he was severely wounded and hospitalized in Milan. During the long recuperation that followed, the 19 year-old met and fell deeply in love with Agnes von Kurowsky. The experience is a pivotal turning point and inspiration for the writer that Hemingway would become. For Keach, it was a superb example of the skillful approach to the material that spans the tumultuous life, loves, and near-death experiences, all played out in Room 217 at the Gran Hotel La Perla in Pamplona, Spain.
Gritty, purposeful and complete... Falls and Keach do not allow the pace of this often-troubled story, fraught with anger, remorse, and regret, to waver from the ever-present knowledge that there are precious few glorious days ahead. Watching Keach is, as the text states, “like standing behind a waterfall” - his nuanced performance gritty, purposeful and complete.
Stunning projection... Kevin Depinet’s impressive scenic design is strikingly enhanced with the stylized lighting of Jesse Klug, Noël Huntzinger's costume, Michael Roth's music|sound and Adam Fleming’s stunning projection. Goodman dramaturge Tanya Palmer provides a fascinating overview of Hemingway’s life in the program notes, supplemented by Jerry Patch, which when combined with all of the stage elements help to frame Hemingway’s extraordinary life.
Masterful ... Closing out a rich and glorious season at Goodman Theatre, Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway delivers a masterful, not-to-be-missed, performance. Olé!
Written by Jim McGrath
Directed by Robert Falls
through August 19th