At Conni DiLego’s urging, the audience is well into its second, more rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” when Geronimo Sands as Walt Whitman saunters into view, carefully leaning on his cane and grinning from ear to ear.

At Conni DiLego’s urging, the audience is well into its second, more rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” when Geronimo Sands as Walt Whitman saunters into view, carefully leaning on his cane and grinning from ear to ear.

He is wearing a black, broad-brimmed hat, and boasts the signature beard. By the time everyone has left Plymouth Center for the Arts and headed home, he will have inspired and revitalized even the most weary of audience members with a truly stirring capture of one of America’s greatest poets and thinkers.

Geronimo Sands’ performances of Walt Whitman in “Time for a Party: Celebrating Walt Whitman’s 200th Birthday,” at the Plymouth Center for the Arts drew appreciative and full crowds Saturday and Sunday for good reason. Sands channeled the American Bard with the expertise of more than half a century in theater as only an actor, director, producer, playwright and, indeed, poet can.

His own inspiration hit when he wandered the streets of his native New York and stumbled upon a poster commemorating Whitman’s 200th birthday. Sands spent the next two months compiling a script for his one-man show, mining Whitman’s seminal poetry, letters and observations for a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

Whitman’s extraordinary nod to humanity “Leaves of Grass” centered the story line. “Leaves of Grass” was so pioneering a book of poetry, it got Whitman fired from a job, though it would later crown him as one of the greatest of American poets and as the father of free verse.

Sands’ performance demonstrated Whitman’s genius, breathing life into a man who dared speak his truth, shrugging off the constraints of rhyme, meter and stanza, and speaking directly to the reader as he dove into regions of human experience hitherto untouched by the literary world. Whitman dared to discuss his homosexuality, and the miracle of the human body and did it with the same sense of wonder and reverence with which he observed a blade of grass, no less a product of the universe’s eternal magic than a star.

Sands’ performance edified Whitman’s metaphysical explorations as the poet boldly and fearlessly, defied the constructs of traditional poetry and expression as much as he defied the constructs of society’s gender expectations. But defiance is, perhaps, the wrong word because it implies a type of force, and Sands helps the audience see that force is what is absent in Whitman. The power of the performance is Sands’ ability to convey Whitman’s brave and authentic presence that is all the more so in not knowing it is brave and authentic. Sands illustrates Whitman as just doing what he does. His writings, brought to life in Sands, reveal a childlike sense of wide openness and of simply living his creed with no apologies. Indeed, Sands’ performance of Whitman shows the poet reveling in the vagaries of his own mind as much as he revels in the world and beings around him.

He is unfettered; he is free.

Sands’ passionate and, at times, explosive delivery of Whitman’s poetry drew tears when he pulled from the poet’s cache of heart breaking verse on soldiers he attended to as a nurse in the Civil War and in “Oh, Captain, My Captain,” Whitman’s tribute to President Abraham Lincoln.

In the end, the parallels between Whitman and Sands himself emerged, as the free-thinking, open and wondrous spirits of both men became evident.

A remarkable and provocative one-man show, one hopes that PBS or some other major network will film Sands’ performance and make it available to the masses.

There is no question; Walt Whitman was in the house.