"The Yeats Game," mentioned in my last column, ran in New York in March to great word-of-mouth, and three-quarters capacity, in a small theater space at The Producers' Club.
The comedy hit chords with the Boomer generation, the play's central topic.
Ben Roech wrote: "This play is pretty big. There is so much in this story that is something really special ... what a hoot! Again, thanks for a wonderful play! Yeah, I'm pre-geezer, so I'm biased, but I loved it!"
What, you ask, has this got to do with William Butler Yeats or poetry?
The poet wrote, famously, "I am still of the opinion that only two topics can be of the least interest to a serious and studious mood ... sex and the dead." That line inspired the play, both the sex farce aspects and the pre-geezer theme. The character Jack McCafferty quotes the line in Act One.
Ben Roech went on to compliment the cast, a talented group of actors — wonderful people, to boot. You might have recognized one or more of them from past work in film, stage or television: Lucius Wall ("Fight Club"), Jennifer Silverstein ("The Last Woman on Earth"), Susan Stout ("Sex and the City"), and Toby Wherry ("The Frog Prince.") The four worked hard, under expert direction by Kathy Richter, and came together beautifully in the ensemble piece.
"The Yeats Game" reviews were not all positive, especially those from 20-somethings who were not sympathetic to the Boomer issues. But all found things to like: the music (designed and composed by Tim Dahl and David Buddin), the acting, the surprise ending (don't tell).
This production provided a sharp, positive learning curve. And personally, because it meant many visits to the Big Apple, the production had the side-effect of increasing my love for New York City.
It was a joy to work in the Manhattan, not simply be a museum-hunting tourist. Commuting many times, and staying for a while each trip, I got to know people, midtown, some favorite delis and bars.
I have been working on a long poem about New York, centered on the subway's One Train as a symbol of the city's and the country's diverse unity. The poem takes readers from Times Square south to Chambers St., the last stop before Cortlandt St., closed since the World Trade Center attack.
The entire poem will soon to appear in "The Recorder," a New York literary journal.
The poem is too long for this column because there are 11 stanza-stops; below is the first stanza:
As the funnel of everyone in Times Square 42nd St.
Cascades down the station stairs,
Pace and urgent purpose damming
Briefly at turnstiles before cleaving
Into streams for 8th or 7th Avenue
Trains, an A Train, the Two,
And while quick, diverged currents, hot
And breathless, pick platforms, stop
To listen for slivering steel drums
In the wait for translation to work or home,
Here, at the side of a narrow island
Forty feet under ground,
With a wind-rush and rattle that drive
Away agile, enterprising mice,
Ett Tag, Bir Tren,
Mmoja Treni, Een Trein,
Premier Train, Jeden Trenovat,
The red One Train halts.
A mustered public, potluck, steps
Forward, hushed and obscure, hips
Shifting at doors in slide-by
Witness, separate bodies white
And yellow, brown, black and tan,
Pocked or whiskery, whiskeyed, wan,
Green, gray, big and bone-house,
The meek, mouthy, angry, lost
A tourist who trails maps and binoculars
Jamming last onto the crowded car.
App-trance and defensive doze,
Deft conventions of eye and elbow
Mind the tribes. A breath brushes
Your strapping hand. The platform passes.
John Ronan is a former poet laureate for the city of Gloucester and host of "The Writer's Block" shown on Cape Ann community TV.