Robert Frost reveals himself at Northern Stage

Photo by Rob Strong Gordon Clapp is the poet in “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” at Northern Stage.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION – Anyone who thinks of the poet Robert Frost as bucolic certainly doesn’t know “The Death of the Hired Man.” Actor Gordon Clapp, in Saturday’s opening night performance of “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” for Northern Stage at the Barrette Center or the Arts, certainly dispelled that notion. Frost’s “The Death of the Hired Man,” first published in 1914, relates an evening discussion of a farming couple whose some-time laborer has returned unexpectedly – to die. During the course of the poem, not only is a man’s life revealed unsparingly, it is explained. Heart wrenching and beautiful, it is great Frost. As Frost, Clapp brings that poem to life in Frost’s inimitable voice, clipped New England accent and all. Most important, Clapp lets the deep humanity of the poet subtly emerge from the irrepressible wit of the cultivated curmudgeon. Clapp, known for his 12 seasons as Det. Greg Medavoy on TV’s “NYPD Blue,” is a particularly fine and versatile actor. In recent years, he has become part of the Northern Stage “family.” Currently Clapp is playing Dr. Rank in the Henrik Ibsen classic “A Doll’s House” in repertory with “This Verse Business.” Created by playwright and actor A.M. Dolan, “This Verse Business” is a collection of Frost’s poetry and commentary in the form of one his famous public appearances. It was first presented by the Peterborough Players, and is directed by Gus Kaikonen, artistic director of the New Hampshire theater. It had its Vermont premiere in 2013, when it had runs at Montpelier’s Lost Nation Theater, Dorset Theatre Festival and St. Johnsbury Academy. Since that time, the show has morphed and developed a bit, growing even deeper. What makes the show so rewarding is that this mix of his poetry and commentary reveals the many layers of this complex man, as well as illuminating some of his most famous poems – and some you might not know. And Clapp’s portrayal feels authentic. Rather than just imitating the original, Clapp inhabits Frost, including his mannerisms, his thought processes and beliefs – and even his look. Northern Stage has underscored “This Verse Business” with a most attractive physical production, designed by Alexander Woodward and lit by Tyler M. Perry. The first half is in a simple lecture hall setting that imaginatively morphs into a stylized rural New England setting. Anyone who loves Robert Frost and his poetry cannot fail to be moved by Gordon Clapp in “This Verse Business.”   Northern Stage Northern Stage presents Gordon Clapp in “Robert Frost: This Verse Business,” by A.M. Dolan, Oct. 7-28 at the Barrette Center for the Arts, 74 Gates St. in White River Junction, in repertory with Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” Tickets start at $15 for students and $34 for adults. For tickets, information, and show times call 802-296-7000 or visit www.northernstage.org.

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