“Gertrude Stein SAINTS” is a Theatrical Breath of Fresh Air

by Emma Tilden

“Gertrude Stein Saints!” opens with the entrance of a young man, seemingly overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of the world he encounters as he walks onstage.  As he begins the opening number, he seems almost to be a part of the audience—he appears as surprised by each new note as we are, as if every movement is a fresh experience. 

This almost childlike sense of newness lasts throughout the whole show, which, though its words are made up entirely by the poetry of Gertrude Stein (namely her libretto “Four Saints in Three Acts”), seems to be more of a celebration of the cast’s own youthful energy than an homage to her work. I found that I really started to enjoy the performance only after I gave up trying to follow the words or find a plot and just watched the show for its music and dance.  I’m not discounting Stein’s writing, actually I’m a huge fan of her work, but I got the impression that the performers had left the meaning of the words behind when they composed the piece. 

The songs of “Gertrude Stein Saints!,” though hardly memorable, are all pleasant.  The earlier songs are all of the doo-wop persuasion, and they move through the subsequent musical eras.  One of my personal favorite moments was a rap face-off between the genders. I highly doubt Gertrude Stein’s work has ever been rapped before, or that it will be again.  Though the songs are mostly performed a cappella, one of the cast members will occasionally pick up a guitar or step in behind a piano cleverly disguised to blend into the set. 

The 13-member cast, an ensemble known as Theater Plastique, rarely stands still, and their exuberant energy is one of the show’s biggest charms.  It was fun just to be in the same room as them, and their excitement was contagious; I was happy to join in, clapping and whooping along as they pranced their way through the thoroughly enjoyable, feel-good show. 

“Gertrude Stein Saints!” continues through June 28th at the Abrons Arts Center (466 Grand St at Pitt St.). abronsartscenter.org

To help fund the show, the company has started an indiegogo campaign.  You can help donate here!  

Images courtesy of vimeo.com, abronsartscenter.com, and 9-poeticfingers.com.  

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.