Pound begins in the dark with Christopher Lloyd (Ezra Pound), quoting Pound's play Pull Down Thy Vanity, which sums up the play, Pound at the Lion Theater. The play takes place in the St. Elizabeth's Psychiatric Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Pound holds court with his "groupies." He receives people as he wishes and orders the workers around like they work for him. He has been charged with treason, from his socialist rants against America, capitalism and Jews. Having lived in Italy for many years, he was deported under treason charges and ended up where the entire play takes place, the insane asylum. Pound is ornery, indignant, and a tyrant in this facility. Some of the things he says to nurse Priscomb are downright cruel. He refers to her as blue hair and tells her that she could never be married and compares her to the newest Doctor, Dr. Polley (Kate Abbruzzese). Pound is equally cruel to his so-called friend Archibald Mac Leish, a poet who was trained by Pound, who is also a lawyer because as he says, "Poets need to pay their bills." Mac Leish knows Pound, or at least he thinks he does. He is ever grateful for what Pound did for him and is doing his best to get Pound out of there and clear his name and take him on tour as well.
Here is the problem with this play, Pound. It was enjoyable; however, it could have been better. Sean O'Leary focuses on Pound's anti-Semitism more than the great poet. In the play we keep hearing about how Pound made Eliot and other poets. O'Leary should have developed this more; O'leary omits a fellow poet from Baltimore who without Pound maybe would have not be discovered, maybe the best poet ever, Edgar Allen Poe. It astounded me that O'Leary never mentioned this as it is open knowledge in the writing community of Pound's relationship with Poe. The other problem with the play is that Lloyd is so much more advanced than any other actor on that stage. Not only does Pound push Dr. Polley all over the place in the play but Abbruzzese cannot stand up to Lloyd in this performance as an actor. Christopher Lloyd is a big time actor, Taxi, Back To The Future, etc. He was head and shoulders above the other three that he could not be contained and the play suffered as a result of this. Even though the play kept most people's attention, it would have been better if the show addressed Pound's life, his writings, and his thinking.
We learn toward the end of the play that Pound was different than the other kids in his school, and he felt different. That was the extent of his childhood. We learn when he is ready to leave the institution that he is scared. The fact that Pound is conflicted with staying and leaving is no great revelation, neither is the fact that his Anti-Semitism affected many people, including the Doctor. The wow factor that O'Leary just wasn't overwhelming.
In a modest set and economical lighting, the play could have been deeper, darker, and Gothic like Pound himself. If we saw his deep and dark side, I think it would have been better for certain. Instead O'Leary only scratches the surface instead of taking that big step and it costs what could have been a great play about a fantastic poet, maybe the best America has ever had.
I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows