Stevie, 1900 Productions, at Crossroads Theater. The life of poet Florence Margaret “Stevie” Smith offers little in the way of gossip. She never married, pursued no torrid love affairs, and held a secretarial job until she quit to care for the aunt who’d raised her. She acquired her nickname when chums mockingly compared her equestrianship to that of a popular jockey. She did tend toward melancholy and an obsession with death–but her sole attempt at suicide was a failure. And nearly everything she wrote was published before her death at age 69.
Hugh Whitemore’s biodrama is set in the title character’s comfortable sitting room. For two hours Smith recounts the story of her life, occasionally incorporating her poetry to illustrate the influence of one poem on another. Sometimes she breaks off to chat with her proudly prosaic aunt or with the rare male admitted to their spinsterly universe.
Playing Smith, Mary Mulligan demonstrates an ear for poetry’s rhythms and phrasing, perhaps because of her background in musical theater. Her delivery of Smith’s forays into elevated language is so conversational that only the occasional rhyme hints that we’re listening to a vibrant artist at a literary moment. Lolly Trauscht’s “lion aunt” and David Perkovich’s assorted clueless gentlemen (he also directs) add precise harmonies to this Naperville production.