Monday, February 4, 2013


Playwright:  Michael Hollinger.
VenueDairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO  80301.
Date of Performance:  Sunday, February 3, 2013
Running Time:  90 minutes (no intermission)
The premise of Ghost-Writer is simple but engaging:  set in 1919, novelist Franklin Woolsey dies in mid sentence while dictating a new novel to Myra, his typist.  She continues to type, and finishes the book months after his death.  From this premise comes a marvelous drama about the process of writing, a forbidden love, and the source of artistic inspiration.
Hollinger's script is a work of rare beauty.  His novelist, Woolsey, is a writer who dotes on the details, the punctuation, and the tone of his work.  Fittingly, so does Hollinger.  He gives us a focused, polished story; every line is essential, not a word is wasted.  The quality of Hollinger's writing is impressive; he has a gift for using an extensive vocabulary without making the actors seem pretentious. 
Director Josh Hartwell is working with an extremely accomplished cast, and he has made the most of their talents.  He mixes dialog with extended pauses, making the creative writing process both visible and credible.  Hartwell's skill with his actors is on full display in two striking scenes:  his staging and lighting of the dance and the last scene are both exquisite.
Laura Norman.  Photo Credit:  BETC
In a sense, this could be considered a one woman show.  Laura Norman is not just the typist; she is the focus and the force on the stage.  She doesn't portray Myra Babbage; she IS Myra Babbage for 90 minutes.  Her gestures and her facial expressions are the visual punctuation for Hollinger's prose.  Her low key delivery deftly reveals Myra's loyalty to Woolsey and her thinly disguised sexual attraction to him.  Norman's final scene is powerful; you will not soon forget the simultaneous grief and relief she displays as the lights go down.
While Babbage/Norman is the focus, both Jim Hunt and Anne Sandoe shine as the Woolsey couple.  Hunt is the stodgy curmudgeon novelist who has a complicated relationship with his typist.  Sandoe is the jealous wife who knows that she is losing her spouse to a rival with whom she cannot compete.  Both bring their A games to their roles.
If you haven't yet figured out how I feel about this performance, let me make it clear.  Ghost-Writer is extraordinary.  Everything here works; lights, sound, set, costumes, actors, director, and script are flawless.  When all these elements come together, the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.  To say that the experience is rewarding does not begin to convey the power of the performance.  Ghost-Writer is a must see.  Although it's early, I feel I can begin compiling my "Best of" list for 2013.   Ghost-Writer will be competing for a top spot on that list.
If you haven't noticed, the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company is having an outstanding seasonGhost-Writer has a short run (it closes on February 16).  If you can't make it by then, try to get to one of the coming attractions.  They look very promising.
In conclusion, if you've seen the play, you know that Ghost-Writer has given me a suitable phrase to conclude my thoughts here:  
"Well, I suppose that's about it..."
This show runs through February 16, 2013.  There's nothing here that would be objectionable for children, but the subject matter would not interest most kids.  The discussion of whether an apostrophe is correctly used would probably send them running to the parking lot.  
One of the unintended benefits of Ghost-Writer is the effect it had on composing this post.  I can assure all readers that I have very carefully reviewed my spelling, punctuation, and grammar before posting.  If anyone would like to dispute the use of an apostrophe or a semi-colon, please leave me a comment.  I'd love to have that discussion...
Photo Credits:  BETC
Director:  Josh Hartwell
Set Design:  Megan Chaney
Lighting Design:  Kerry Cripe
Sound Design:  Andrew Metzroth
Costume Designer:  Brenda King
Myra Babbage:  Laura Norman
Franklin Woolsey:  Jim Hunt
Vivian Woolsey:  Anne Sandoe

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