REVIEW: Ghost-Writer: The Wonders of Wordplay

(Review by David Treadwell for the New Maine Times)

The setting is as spare and trim as a good piece of writing: an Underwood typewriter set on a table, a tall bookcase filled with books, a gramophone, an easy chair, a tea set, a telephone.

The lights dim; music from the 1920s fills the air; a man enters from stage left; a woman enters from stage right. The man is the writer Franklin Woolsey. The woman is his secretary, Myra. The play is Ghost-Writer, Heartwood Regional Theater’s haunting production about words and collaboration, love and jealousy, hope and heartbreak.

The play revolves around the relationship between Myra (played by Millie Santiago) and Woolsey (played by Dwight Burtis). Myra’s role evolves from typist to punctuation expert to sometime writer (she artfully crafts a few sentences to Woolsey’s surprise) to full-time writer of Woolsey’s prose after he dies. In the latter capacity, she waits until the words come to her. “Mr. Woolsey would have wanted us to finish the novel,” she assures Woolsey’s jealous widow Vivian (played by Dixie Weisman).

The relationship takes a romantic turn over time: Woolsey confesses his strong feelings for Myra; she teaches him to dance. Woolsey’s widow’s jealousy turns to rage after Myra has taken it upon herself to finish her husband’s novel.

Millie Santiago does an absolutely superb job playing Myra. Her self-definition changes from skilled typist who merely wants Thursday nights off to go dancing with a male friend; to essential collaborator with Woolsey; to the protector of his legacy and the only person capable of completing his last book.

Along the way, you can sense Myra’s full range of emotions: pride in her work; growing affection for Woolsey; regret for a romantic relationship that wasn’t to be; and a fierce determination to carry on his work.

Dwight Burtis does a nice job portraying the almost-always buttoned down Woolsey. Dixie Weisman nails the part of the jealous wife, with her arched brows, huffy pronunciations and sarcastic tone.

Griff Braley, Heartwood’s Artistic Director, again demonstrates his uncanny ability to choose the right people for the right parts and then put together an air-tight production. Tish Munson, Tech Director, again applies her deft skill to lights and sound work.

Performances will run for two weekends only in the Poe Theater at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle. Evening performances beginning at 7:30 will show January 18, 19, 25, and 26 with two Sunday 3:00 matinees, January 20 and 27. Tickets are $12/students and $20/adults. Reservations are strongly recommended, available at 207-563-1373 or boxoffice@heartwoodtheater.org. www.heartwoodtheater.org.

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