Gordon Clapp in "Robert Frost: This Verse Business" - by A.M. Dolan at the BCA (Boston, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: Gordon Clapp as poet Robert Frost in "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" by A.M. Dolan now playing at the Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion in Boston for a limited engagement until April 28, 2024. Photo Credit: Alex Woodward)

By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

"A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity."

                                                      Robert Frost 



Emmy Award Winner GORDON CLAPP 

in A.M. Dolan's


Limited Engagement! One Week Only!

Written by A.M. Dolan

Directed by Gus Kaikkonen

Starring Gordon Clapp

Additional Creative Team:

Stage Manager - Andy Dolan


April 23, 2024 through April 28, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times) 

Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA.  


Tickets are $75 - $25. For more information, visit bostontheatrescene.com 


Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Who would think that, in 2024, the Calderwood in Boston would be the place to meet Robert Frost, especially since the famed American poet passed away in 1963

Yet, thanks to the fine portrayal of Frost by Emmy winner and New England native actor Gordon Clapp, you will feel as if you literally have spent time in the presence of the esteemed Mr. Frost.   

Clapp brings his one-man show, "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS," to the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion.

The event, as directed by Gus Kaikkonen, is not merely a standard biographical piece of a notable historical figure. 

It is a full re-creation by Clapp and writer A.M. Dolan of the esteemed poet’s later years in two specific parts: 

The first half of the show is Frost in lecture.   

Frost was nominated 31 times for the Nobel Prize in Literature

We get the sense that we are “auditing his class” and, after an (as scripted) awkward beginning, we soon find ourselves hanging onto every word Frost utters as the “guest lecturer” reads from and discusses some of his most notable works. 

(Photo: Gordon Clapp as poet Robert Frost in lecture in a scene from "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" by A.M. Dolan now playing at the Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion in Boston for a limited engagement until April 28, 2024. Photo Credit: Meg Moore)

Some of Frost's poems have a unique folksy charm and even an impish quality at times. 

Then again, Frost also tended to delve into more darker themes - certain underlying questions of a bleak existence and how the individual might find themselves totally lost if without the required (if not always desired) companionship of his fellow man.

Maintaining the delicate balance between these two is where Frost was unequalled and, in THIS VERSE BUSINESS," that is a quality Clapp seemingly wishes to convey in his spot on portrayal.

The second half of the show we are with him (or at least we feel we are with him) in his home surroundings, nestled away in Vermont, where Frost would be bestowed the honor of becoming “Poet Laureate of Vermont” in 1961.     

Here we learn more about Frost, the man, the husband and father, and the personal joys and tragedies he faced in his nearly 90 years.

Frost, who was born in 1874 and died 1963 at age 88, was initially published in England before being published in the United States

Part of Frost’s appeal was in how many of his writings used American colloquialisms, meaning you did not have to be in Mensa to understand what he was writing about.

(Photo: Gordon Clapp as poet Robert Frost at his Vermont home in a scene from "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" by A.M. Dolan now playing at the Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion in Boston for a limited engagement until April 28, 2024. Photo Credit: Alex Woodward)

One did not sense Frost was overanalyzing in his “observations”- rather he was pointing out what was right in front of his (and our) eyes in a very descriptive, understandable way. 

There is a keen, heightened 'observational' quality to many of his best works, and Clapp fully channels the famed poet, making us feel as if we are in his presence. 

Occasionally, Frost wrote in metaphor, sometimes using observations from his own rural life in New England as a basis. 

However, or at least in Clapp’s marvelous portrayal, the author gives us a sense that metaphor was not always intentional and that others who may have looked at some of his work for deeper meaning did so with far greater philosophical analysis than he did when he actually wrote them.   

That being said, Frost still managed to be awarded four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and was given the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960 for his works.   

(Photo: Gordon Clapp as poet Robert Frost in "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" by A.M. Dolan now playing at the Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion in Boston for a limited engagement until April 28, 2024. Photo Credit: Meg Moore)

Frost examined the more involved social and philosophical themes of his day - and that work carries forward even today, if not becoming more relevant as time passes.

The only issue with the 80-minute play is in its theatrical structure. 

As we sit through the first half of the show, it does feel very much like a standard "poetry lecture" and, as such, there is little movement involved. 

While still engaging, a lecture tends to be more a cerebral event, less a theatrical one.

However, once we get into the second half or "Vermont" section, then there is more of a theatrical quality because we get to know more of the man and the artist, and not just through the analytics of his works.

(Photo: Gordon Clapp as poet Robert Frost at his Vermont home in a scene from "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" by A.M. Dolan now playing at the Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion in Boston for a limited engagement until April 28, 2024. Photo Credit: Alex Woodward)

Frost himself once wrote, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the readerand, in many ways, the above applies theatrically as, even with all the famous passages from the author, there are few surprises here. 

The true enjoyment comes from the latter half as we learn more about Frost as a person.

Structurally, what might have functioned better, at least to heighten the theatricality of "THIS VERSE BUSINESS," is to have used the Vermont section used throughout and in lieu of the lecture, instead incorporating the Frost lecture segments and poetry readings as "excerpts" for a better overall balance between the two.

Both halves are engaging but the first half would likely appeal a bit more exclusively to diehard Frost enthusiasts and less to the average theatregoer although, with Clapp's exemplary portrayal, there is still quite a lot to enjoy here.

"ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" continues at the Roberts Studio Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion until April 28th. For tickets and more information, visit bostontheatrescene.com.

Approximately 80 minutes with no intermission 

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 




FROST COMES TO THE STAGE THIS SPRING (“With the Thaw, Comes the Frost…”)

Emmy-winning actor GORDON CLAPP ("NYPD Blue") will bring his acclaimed portrayal of poet Robert Frost to Boston this Spring in the one-man show "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" by local playwright A.M. Dolan.  

Directed by Gus Kaikkonen, it’s an entertaining portrait of the great poet and platform legend whose public “talks” were hot tickets for nearly half a century and an illuminating glimpse of the old bard at home, aware of his fame and failures, with poems still to write and “promises to keep.”  

“The Boston performances reflect a homecoming of sorts for the poet, who had a home on Beacon Hill and then, for the last two decades, in Cambridge on Brewster Street,” said Dolan. “He died in Boston, just weeks after giving his final ‘talk’ at the Ford Hall Forum. 2024 is the 150th anniversary of his birth, and April is ‘Poetry Month.’ The time felt right for the Boston premiere.”

In CLAPP's acclaimed portrait, the flinty old poet shares his verse from memory, along with witty “wild surmises” on art, religion, science, “radicals,” and “conservatives.”

"FROST is a voice that we need in this century," CLAPP said. "I feel like I'm bringing him into this time again."

Culled from actual recordings and FROST's writings, the production reveals in measured glances both the public and private faces of an American icon, whose poems about rural New England became a canvas for exploring deeper philosophical and social ideas. Included in the play are best-known poems such as “Birches,” “Mending Wall,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and "The Road Not Taken.”

CLAPP said that when he performs, he can feel an aura of expectation from certain audience members, hard-core FROST fans whom he calls "FROST-aceans" (like crustaceans). 

But he doesn't attribute this energy to his acting. 

"They're addicted to the poetry, and they're so moved by it," CLAPP said. "I don't give myself a lot of credit for that. It's FROST himself right there."


GORDON CLAPP has played ROBERT FROST more than 130 times at regional theatres and college towns in ten states. MR. CLAPP's long career in theatre, television, and film includes his most recent Broadway performances as J. Edgar Hoover to Brian Cox’s LBJ in "The Great Society" in 2019 and as Judge Taylor, opposite Jeff Daniels’ Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 2021.  In 2023 CLAPP played Gus Cudahy, the unexpected love interest of Mimi Kennedy’s “public intellectual” Prudence Payne, in the Arizona Theatre Company’s world premiere of "Pru Payne" and the title role of NFL legend Tommy McDonald in "Tommy and Me" at the Bucks County Playhouse. Numerous film credits including "Matewan" and "Eight Men Out" with loads of television guest and recurring roles. CLAPP's 12-season portrayal of Detective Greg Medavoy on "NYPD Blue" earned him the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1998.  CLAPP has most recently been seen on HBO’s "Mare of Easttown" and Showtime’s "American Rust." MR. CLAPP is frequently spotted on the Dartmouth Coach, traveling between Boston and his home in Vermont, which he shares with his wife, Elisabeth Gordon.


A.M. DOLAN (playwright) was raised in Framingham and Wellesley in a theatre family. His mother, Muriel Dolan, taught voice and speech at Boston University and Brandeis University. She co-founded the Playhouse at Piccadilly Square in Newton with her husband, actor and critic Frank Dolan, and actress Anita Sangiolo in the 1970s. Andy has performed with Harbor Stage, Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre, Merrimack Rep, New Rep, and New Century theatres, among others.  "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" won “Best New Play” (Kaplan Award) at the Eventide Arts Festival in 2010 and “Best Production” at the United Solo Festival in NYC in 2013. His two other plays are "Five Live Poets" and "Dylan Thomas: In Country Heaven." He lives in Falmouth with his wife, Zoe Cardon.


Credits include the New York production of "Hindle Wakes" nominated as Outstanding Revival by both the 2018 Drama Desk Awards and the Off Broadway Alliance. His direction of "ROBERT FROST: THIS VERSE BUSINESS" starring GORDON CLAPP won “Best Production” at New York's United Solo Festival. KAIKKONEN directed his own new translations of "Dr. Knock" and "Donogoo" at the Mint, as well as the New York premieres of N.C. Hunter’s "A Picture Of Autumn" and Harley Granville-Barker’s "Farewell to the Theatre," among many others there. At the Pearl: "The Philanderer," "Tartuffe," "Arms and the Man" and several others, and multiple productions at Playhouse 91, the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble and at HB Playwrights. In the regions, he has directed at Goodspeed, Ford’s Theatre ("Trying" with James Whitmore), Geva, the Asolo, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, Boars Head Theatre, the Springer Opera House and the Coconut Grove Playhouse ("About Time" with Theodore Bikel), and at several other theatres. For a season he was the resident assistant director for the Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center.  From 1990-93 he was the Artistic Director of Riverside Shakespeare Company in NYC, producing three seasons of works by Shakespeare and Shaw, as well as the world premiere of "Iron Bars" by Arpad Goncz, the President of Hungary. From 1996 to 2021 he was the Artistic Director of  Peterborough Players, directing over 60 plays, and winning the New Hampshire Theatre Award for Best Director 11 times.


One of the most widely read and respected poets of the 20th century in the United States, ROBERT FROST received so many honorary degrees (27) a friend made the commencement hoods into a quilt. He was the first poet to recite at a presidential inaugural and is the only poet to have won four Pulitzer Prizes.  His great popularity contributed to a new consciousness and patronage of contemporary poets and writers in the 20th and 21st centuries.  “What began in obscurity is ending in a blaze of publicity,” FROST quipped. Some of ROBERT FROST's fame stemmed from the many entertaining “talks” he gave, often in college towns before mixed crowds of students, faculty, and local citizens.  Before reading or “saying” his poems, he would allow himself “a little say-so” about whatever was on his mind.  These general audiences witnessed some of his broadest thinking and humor.  Was the platform performer the man?  No.  He said if you really wanted to know him, “read his complete works.” ROBERT FROST disliked attempts by critics to categorize him, classifying himself simply as a poet who “wanted to be understood” and whose ambition was “to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of.”