Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern


Also see John's review of West Side Story

Kate Eastwood Norris and J. Fred Shiffman (background)
The Florida Stage—with producers Gail Boyan, Robin Ellen Meyers and co-sponsor Temple Israel Friends of Florida Stage—presents the regional premiere of the play Ghost-Writer by Michael Hollinger. Florida Stage audiences may remember playwright Michael Hollinger for his plays Opus, Red Herring, and Incorruptible seen in their previous seasons. His other work includes the playsTiny Island, Tooth And Claw, and Boeuf. He has also written seven touring plays for young audiences, and the scripts for three PBS short films. Hollinger is the recipient of the Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center's Fund for New American Plays, and the Barrymore Independence Foundation Award for Outstanding New Play.

Set in New York City in the early 1900s, famous novelist Franklin Woolsey has died before he could finish dictating his masterwork to his long-time, devoted secretary Myra Babbage. Yet somehow she is completing the story on her own, in a voice that is unmistakably his. Through their long working relationship, Miss Babbage developed a literary intimacy with her employer that enables her to complete and anticipate his dictation. Bonded by artistic passion, and Miss Babbage's repressed romantic desire for Mr. Woolsey, they achieved a journalistic communion of sorts. One that is perhaps strong enough to transcend death.

Babbage is understandably met with the suspicion and resentment of Woolsey's strong-willed widow, Vivian. There is also the question of whether she may be staging a hoax for publicity and her own personal gain. She faces these possible accusations head on by declining to continue to be paid for her time, and allowing the press interview which is the basis for the setting of the play.

The set for this production is a well-turned out studio apartment. The stately image of Mr. Woolsey (J. Fred Shiffman), his back to the audience, forever gazing out the window in search of inspiration, is indeed a haunting one. The sweet face of Miss Babbage (Kate Eastwood), seated at her typewriter with body nearly aquiver in expectation of his every word, breeds palpable anticipation.

Lourelene Snedeker, dressed to the nines as Vivian Woolsey, formidably sweeps in and out of scenes. She is an imposing force to be reckoned with. J. Fred Shiffman is ideal as Mr Woolsey, interestingly used as almost a prop in the recollections of Miss Babbage. What can one say of Kate Eastwood Norris as Myra Babbage? She is more than one could ever hope for in an exhausting role. It is not just the volume of dialogue, but the eternal self-conscious focus of the character that requires great attention to technique. Myra's prim surface barely covers her repressed desires. Norris captures it all. She uses precision in her diction in a way that speaks of a woman carefully choosing her words, and her handling of language is flawless. Most important is her ability to convey the subtext behind the words that sometimes exist (in the words of the author) in a way that is more true than the reality of the situation. Her performance in Ghost-Writer is stunning, and the writing in Michael Hollinger's latest work is both elegant and eloquent.

Ghost-Writer will be appearing at the Florida Stage through April 3, 2011. The Florida Stage is located in the Rinker Playhouse in the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach, FL. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Florida Stage Box Office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3837 (outside of Palm Beach County). You may also order tickets online at

Florida Stage is a member of the League of Resident Theatres, Theatre Communications Group, Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and the National New Play Network, and works in association with Actors' Equity Association, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and United Scenic Artists. Funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of Palm Beach Tourist Development Fund and the Florida Arts Council, with generous support from The Shubert Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Duane & Dalia Stiller Charitable Trust, Gulf Stream Lumber, Northern Trust Bank of Florida N.A., Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust, and hundreds of individuals and corporations. Florida Stage develops and produces new plays in a passionate, intimate and caring environment, adhering to a standard of uncompromising excellence. We provide a safe harbor for theatre artists and audiences to share in stories of our humanity, a place where the sheer joy of creation and the Florida Stage experience is paramount. Through our productions and our innovative educational programs, we choose to provoke dialogue in our community and inspire people of various ages, ethnic and social backgrounds.

Franklin Woolsey: J. Fred Shiffman*
Myra Babbage: Kate Eastwood Norris*
Vivian Woolsey: Lourelene Snedeker*

Director: Louis Tyrrell**
Scenic Design: Kent Goetz+
Lighting Design: E. Tonry Lathroum+
Sound Design: Matt Kelly
Costume Design: Erin Amico+
Suzanne Clement Jones*

* Indicates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.

+ Indicates a member of United Scenic Artists

**Indicates a member of Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers

Photo: Ken Jacques Photography

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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