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Ghost-Writer

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Ghost-Writer
Michael Hollinger
The Arden Theater
Sept 15 –Nov. 7, 2010

In his seventh world premiere for the Arden, Michael Hollinger probes deeply and quietly into the mysteries of love and writing. Ghost-Writer, Hollinger’s new play is also a gift to his wife Meghan Bellwoar, who returns the gift with an accomplished and moving performance.
Bellwoar plays Myra Babbage, devoted secretary to novelist Franklin Woolsey, a role that demands her active presence on stage for Ghost-Writer’s entire ninety minutes. Myra is interviewed by an unseen interlocutor to determine if she is channeling or mimicking the words of the novelist who died in July with a manuscript near completion. It is November, 1919, in Manhattan. Myra insists she is not writing “only typing” and that she doesn’t believe in ghosts. “What is a ghost… a vivid memory?”

Douglas Rees as Mr. Woolsey also remains on stage throughout Ghost-Writer. He has less to say but the subtleties of gesture and inflection he employs convey meaning and express a period steeped in restraint. Bellwoar and Rees are very compatible. Bellwoar catches the complexities of a young woman of the last century and the wit, irritation and lively passion. Hollinger catches the tenor of language steeped in psychological nuance, wit and word play. Language to be savored for its quiet explosions.

The interpretation is beautiful in its movement from obsession to understanding into grief. Woolsey, upright, self-critical, belatedly unlocks forbidden feelings for his amanuensis. He has come to rely on Myra’s punctilious punctuation nor can the words come without the sound of her typewriting on only her instrument. She has been “tamed” of her jiggling, she reveals, attending over the years to his relaxed attentiveness to inspiration.

Theirs is a marriage of true minds. Since he is married, there are strictures. Once they dance, once he unburdens his heart then freezes. “We kissed and kissed,” Myra tells the interviewer. Then: clarifies “We would have kissed.” This is a true romantic.

Patricia Hodges as the overlooked Mrs. Woolsey appears and sounds imperious, vain, touchingly ignored, in short, ideal for the part but opening night her swift delivery and zig-zag movements were distracting and caricatured. She may need time to relax in the role. Mrs. Woolsey is given some of the play’s sharpest insights.

And if the words aren’t his? Myra alone with Mrs. Woolsey, struggles with this question.
“Well, then it’s just you alone in a room,” Mrs. Woolsey says. That’s called being a writer.
Ghost-Writer at the Arden through Nov. 7.

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Written by Lesley Valdes

September 23, 2010 at 8:03 pm