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Ghost Writer at International City Theater – Superb

By Brian Hews

Last Friday night we went to see “Ghost-Writer” by Michael Hollinger at the International City Theater in Long Beach, and it was utterly amazing. Directed by caryn desai with a cast of three: Paige Lindsey White, Leland Crooke, and Cheryl David, the play kept your attention the entire evening.

Hollinger, a 49-year-old playwright and former violinist from Pennsylvania, has created a mysterious and imaginative work that kept the audience mesmerized throughout.

In a summary from the play’s premiere, Ghost-Writer was summed up as follows:

It’s 1919 and acclaimed novelist Franklin Woolsey has died. His devoted secretary Myra remains poised at her typewriter, claiming she’s still receiving dictation toward the completion of his unfinished masterpiece, dutifully sending each chapter to the publisher under her late employer’s name. Attacked by skeptics, the press, and Woolsey’s jealous widow, Vivian, Myra sets out to prove she is more than just an artful forger. Is she channeling Woolsey’s voice and might she truly possess a gift the world can’t understand, or is she deceiving herself and/or others? This ghost story of literary proportions questions where we draw the line between fact and fiction, between this life and beyond.

That shouldn’t give away the mysteries of the plot, but gives a good idea of its environment. The cast did a superb job… especially Ms. White. Hollinger’s script, essentially a monologue by Myra recalls scenes from her work with Woolsey and interactions with his wife Vivian.

Myra must always wait to hear the words before she types, so there are frequent pauses in the 80-minute play. Whether it’s Woolsey’s voice from beyond or Myra’s subconscious construction of words of those he dictated to her for years, the words come in fits and starts.

In the meantime, the play delves into Myra’s psyche as she describes her passion for Woolsey and learns the art of writing from her labors at the typewriter, essentially the play’s fourth character.

The sound of the keys on a platen becomes Woolsey’s prompt as much as the ringing telephone Vivian has installed in his rented room. It is a jarring reminder of her demand for attention. It’s an interesting three-cornered love affair.

Ghost-Writer recently won the 2011 Barrymore Award as Best New Play. It’s as much a meditation for writers as for theater lovers, but both should enjoy this thoughtful work.

The Ghost-Writer plays through September 16. Performances are Thu. – Sat. at 8pm, Sun. at 2pm. Ticket prices are Thursdays: $37, Fri., Sat., Sun.: $44. Single tickets on sale, ITC box office 562-436-4610 (M-F 9 am-5 pm).