Themes Featured in Multitudes at the Denver Fringe Festival still echo today

On a darkened stage, a figure stands next to an armchair with a single dim lamp in front of an antique trunk. His flowing white beard, ornate black vest and face laced with the ravages of the years belie the energy and passion that will soon overtake the stage.

Meet Walt Whitman, who some consider The Father of American Poetry.

A highly controversial figure while he was alive, many today are only dimly aware of how Whitman was vilified during his lifetime for his unapologetic and unpopular political and social beliefs, as well as the overt sexuality of his writing and presumed homosexuality.

As the anti-slavery Whitman passionately and articulately describes his life and observations in Multitudes, nearly two centuries magically slip away. His recurring themes of love and death, slavery and freedom, and sexuality and repression, eerily echo today’s headlines featuring “Black Lives Matter” and “Less Hate; More Love.”

Compelling performance

In the one-man show, Multitudes, featured in the inaugural season of the Denver Fringe Festival, Kim and Valerie Nuzzo have created a compelling and timely story that keeps you enthralled despite using some of the archaic language and syntax of Whitman’s late 1900’s era.

You feel the anguish as Kim Nuzzo, alone on the stage, reaches out to take the hand of a Rebel soldier and recounts his efforts to provide solace as the young man lies dying among the thousands who overfill the Washington hospitals during the Civil War.

When he speaks of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and anger overtakes the mourning, the feeling is almost palpable in the air around him.

Even in the tender moments, Nuzzo keeps the emotions running high. During his recounting of Whitman’s brief affair with the love of his life he gingerly touches his heart, and you can feel your own flutter with it.

Intense hour

At just over an hour in length, Multitudes is an intense experience that pulls you into the past while hauntingly reminding you that so many of the same struggles and issues still exist today.

Multitudes is available via streaming video during the Denver Fringe Festival.