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Under Milk Wood

Presented by the Unbound Theatre at Theatre 3, 311 W. 43 St., NYC, Dec. 4-21.

"It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea."

As a good Aristotelian, I believe that plays are made of actions, not of words. But where does that leave "Under Milk Wood," Dylan Thomas' "play for voices," his gorgeously imagined, word-intoxicated mosaic of a day in the life of a Welsh village? "Under Milk Wood" is full of memory, reverie, and dream, with fragmentary scenes leaping briefly out of the surrounding, embracing narration. Captain Cat recalls his dead sailors; Willy Nilly delivers the mail; Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard orders one of her husbands, "…before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes." Sinbad Sailors yearns for Gossamer Beynon; Mr. Pugh yearns to poison his wife. There are songs, and children's games, and Lily Smalls puts the kettle on. "The sunny slow lulling afternoon yawns and moons through the dozy town." "Under Milk Wood" has nothing that Aristotle would recognize as "action"; what it has are great cascades of irresistible words. I suppose it is not a play. But it is a joyfully beautiful theatre piece.

The 10 young, barefoot actors of the Unbound Theatre conjure up "Under Milk Wood" on a sceneryless stage. All of them—Jeff Broitman, Phannie Davis, Olivia Goode, John Grimball, Emily Gunyou, Anna Guttormsgaard, Jody Hegarty, Nina Millin, Brad Seal, and Dan Truman—are on stage constantly (except for one brief moment), appearing in a total of some 63 roles. Gunyou plays Polly Garter, that concupiscent single mother, with fine complexity of feeling; otherwise, individual characterizations are unremarkable and, sometimes, especially with older characters, an actor's hard work will be somewhat too apparent. But the actors coalesce as an ensemble in Moni Yakim's fluid, kinetic staging (under Nicholas Lazzaro's similarly fluid lighting). Best of all—they find life in their words, and inhabit Thomas' dream village with affectionate lyricism.

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