- Terelle Jerricks
By John Farrell
There’s an intriguing pun in the title of Michael Hollinger’s play Ghost-Writer, which opened last week at International City Theatre in Long Beach.
The ghost-writer in the title is Myra Babbage (Paige Lindsay White) who works for the famous novelist Franklin Woolsey (Leland Crooks) as a type-writer, taking dictation at her machine five days a week as he composes his novels. But she also continues his work, claiming to be inspired by his spirit after he dies in mid-sentence with what she thinks would have been his greatest novel unfinished.
Is she actually writing for a ghost, or pretending to write for a ghost to finish Woolsey’s final work? You’ll have to decide.
The play takes place in one elegantly furnished upstairs room in New York in 1919. There is a phonograph with a large horn on one side, a luxurious arm-chair on the other, a candle-stick phone on a table and a desk with swivel chair in the middle, on which rests a manual typewriter on which Myra records Franklin’s words. Directed with simple restraint by caryn desai (CQ) (you don’t really know the director is present, it’s so seamless,) the story unfolds with Myra telling us about her world. Looking out the three windows is her employer, sometimes alive, sometimes haunting her presence as she, a slim young woman, gets to know the elderly man in frock coat, vest and chain.
Myra, unmarried woman, is zealous about her work with Franklin and falls in love with him. Franklin is married to Vivian Woolsey (Cheryl David) but has his office in a tall building partly to shut her out. Of course the phone connection, which Franklin doesn’t want, is always there but Vivian, who fancies herself a writer as well, knows enough about the writing process to usually leave well-enough alone.
As the single act unfolds, Myra reveals much about herself and much about the process of writing, which began with simple dictation but became more collaborative as the years went by. She also reveals herself as a repressed woman who finally falls a little in love with Franklin when she teaches him to dance, ostensibly so he can describe dancing in his latest novel.
Vivian wants more time with her husband when he is alive, and resents the type-writer when Myra continues to submit chapters to the publisher she has written, perhaps with help from the late Franklin, long after he has died. Vivian threatens to burn his last manuscript, but we never know the outcome.
Franklin, aloof and contemplative, and Vivian, elegantly dressed but not of the writer’s world, are secondary to the vivacious and lively Myra, who lives for her work, plays her typewriter like a piano, and may be right when she says she is inspired. Certainly, this bright, incisive look into the creative world of imagination and the loneliness of writing is inspired.
Tickets are $37-$44. Performances are Thursday, August 30 at 8 p.m., Friday, August 31 at 8 p.m., Saturday, September 1 at 8 p.m., Sunday, September 2 at 2 p.m., Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. through September 16.
Details: (562) 436-4610, www.InternationalCityTheatre.org
Venue: International City Theatre
Location: 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach