Part ghost story, part love story, Ghost-Writer by Michael Hollinger presents a touching, but comical story about writing, relationships and punctuation. Set in 1919 New York City, the play, directed by Jessica Phelps West, examines the relationship between an author, his secretary and his work. After his untimely passing, Myra Baggage (Elisa Carlson), who has been typing his dictations, completes his unfinished novel as he continues to dictate the story to her.
The central question of the play can be stated simply: Is she making it up? On the other hand, the answer to the question can’t be answered so succinctly. Even Myra herself shows uncertainty in her situation when she examines the nature of writing and the fact that she is still typing his dictations. She mentions, “The same words belong to all of us. He just arranges them better.” Despite that musing she still believes she hears him.
Questioning the authenticity of the manuscript, Vivian Woolsey, played beautifully by Ellen McQueen, hires an investigator, who remains unseen through the play though Myra addresses her narration of the story to him. While she tells her story, the play bounces back and forth between the present and past, giving the audience a picture of the relationship between Franklin Woolsey (Peter Tamm) and Myra.
As Myra, Carlson gives an unquestionably strong performance. Her facial expressions, along with the impression that a free spirit wants to burst out of the prim and proper lady, make the character come alive. She shows impeccable comedic timing, and her interactions with the “typing machine” are natural.
Additionally, Carlson’s interactions with McQueen stand out. Together, they create an energy that permeates the theater. Carlson’s righteousness and McQueen’s bitter jealously volley in a manner that captivates the audience, contrasting to the more intimate interactions with Tamm.
Dale Brubaker’s set, an almost bare office, allows the typewriter to become the center piece of the play, and the typewriter itself makes sounds that add to the beauty of the set. Accenting the authenticity of the set, Linda Patterson’s costume design brings out the characters’ personalities and adds to depth of the actors’ performances.
Whether or not she writes to complete Mr. Woolsey’s wishes from beyond the grave is a question that is never fully answered. Like the visitor Myra addresses, the audience must come to its own conclusion. An intriguing look at creativity, love and loss, Ghost-Writer runs through October 30 at Theatre in the Square. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.theatreinthesquare.com/.
– Kenny Norton