This quote, attributed to Ernest Hemingway, need not be adhered to in order to enjoy THE HEMINGWAY PLAY, currently gracing the Riverwalk main stage. I will say having a familiarity with Hemingway's life is helpful but director Bob Robinson has provided both a life timeline in the lobby and an excellent brief history on page 14 of the program. If you don't know Papa's life, take time to read either of these excellent mini-bios. The play opens in a charming Madrid cafe, complete with a bubbling fountain and wisteria trailing down the walls (set and scenography by Leroy Cupp and Bruce Bennett, lighting design by Ted Daniels). You'll catch on quickly and understand that the opening lines between the characters of Michael Shalley's Julio and Gloria Vivalda's Louisa, both well done with excellent Spanish accents, reflect their deep sadness at Hemingway's death, never speaking his name. Almost immediately we meet Wemedge, the great man as a boy of 19, back from WWI and wounded. Beautifully played by Jared Ross, the young journalist gives us an innocent (albeit randy) portrayal that nearly brings you to tears by the play's end. Next comes Hem, the man at 28, on the cusp of fame (THE SUN ALSO RISES has been published to kudos) and he knows his life is changing. This is a bold Hemingway, nicely developed by Jesse Frawley, a newcomer to the RWT stage. He is accompanied by his cynical friend Vas, another strong performance by Todd Heywood. Young Wemedge awaits the rumored arrival of Earnest, Hemingway in his 50s, very famous but slow to produce after 2 air crashes that have seriously but secretly compromised his health. Joe Dickson is once again splendid, full of bon amie and swagger - deemed a "bag of wind" by the antagonistic Hem. He is joined by his lifelong friend Charlie, a man who sees clearly what Earnest has become and both chastises and protects as he can. Chris Goeckel is first-rate. Last but far from least Papa joins the fray, Michael Hays giving another superb performance both physically and emotionally as the 61 year old Hemingway, paranoid, full of regrets and bravura, confused and clear-eyed, knowing he's seeing Madrid for the last time. The final 5 minutes of this play were extremely moving for me as Papa seems to non-verbally recognize Wemedge for who he is/was. Sally Hecksel and Anna Szabo portray almost incidental women in and out of Hemingway's 4 lives but they are both very good.
The production was stage managed by Sharon Straubel, sound design by Joe Dickson, hair design by Daniel Moore, assistant directed by Rita Deibler, props/set dressing by Ray Kurtis and Melody Tesoro Kurtis, costuming by Sue Chmurynsky, lighting tech was Ric Sadler, sound tech was Mark Mandenberg and fight choreography by Tobin Bates.
I highly recommend this remarkable production. If you're reading this in Ripples, I hope you saw it.