Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review Twelfth Night
MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia, has brought together three fine actors and a skilled director, John Vreeke, for its production of Ghost-Writer, a low-key meditation on the nature of the creative process.
Playwright Michael Hollinger took his inspiration from the symbiotic relationship between novelist Henry James and his longtime typist and later biographer, Theodora Bosanquet. Hollinger's fictionalized story, told in a trim 90 minutes without intermission, revolves around a mysterious triangle comprised of author Franklin Woolsey (Paul Morella), typist Myra Babbage (Susan Lynskey), and Woolsey's wife Vivian (Helen Hedman).
"What is a ghost but a vivid memory when we least expect it?" Myra tells an unseen visitor to Woolsey's New York City office in November 1919. The novelist had died some months earlier, leaving an unfinished manuscript, but Myra returns to the office each day and writes what she says are his words from beyond the gravehence the presence of the visitor, who wants to see her in the process of writing.
The bond between Woolsey and Myra is neither romantic nor physical, but it is as binding in its way as the connection between Woolsey and Vivian, who transcribed her husband's earlier novels in longhand. Vivian feels understandably threatened by the presence of a person who, as she sees it, wants to take advantage of a business acquaintanceship to profit from her late husband's fame.
Vreeke has worked with his actors to convey deep, dramatic emotions without resorting to overt drama. These people are reserved in their lives and their interactions, but their reticence hides deep wells of feeling that can only be expressed obliquely. Lynskey dominates the proceedings as storyteller and participant, but Morella's sense of buried suffering and Hedman's frustration add measurably to the atmosphere.