REVIEW: The Times-Record reviews "Ghost-Writer"

(By Maryli Tiemann for the Brunswick Times Record)

Love stories come in many shapes and forms. Ghost-Writer, Heartwood Regional Theater Company’s newest production, unfolds a rare opportunity to linger over a love story told with masterful subtlety.

To avoid marring this craftsmanship, here are selective details of the plot. If you desire more, please go to Heartwood’s web site,

Ghost-Writer develops in a rented writing room in the early 1900’s where an accomplished writer, Franklin Woolsey (Dwight Burtis) hires Myra Babbage (Millie Santiago) to type his dictated manuscripts. He’s a pensive writer who pauses until his ideas flow, and then carefully speaks his books, complete with punctuation. Myra intuitively learns how to wait, to hear, to type and gradually to question his phrases, especially one semi-colon. The two develop a working partnership that – not unlike a dance – flows gracefully.

The rhythmic noise of the period typewriter brings a kind of music to their moments, and Woolsey's wife (Dixie Weisman) intrudes infrequently into their world of the writing room.

The tricky aspect of this story is that it’s told from Myra’s point of view. As with all stories told in the first person, the details are what the teller chooses, the action flows as the teller recalls, the emotions rest in the heart of the one explaining them. And though this asks us to sort out the truths from the wishes, human nature also allows a story to unfold without undo questioning.

What’s more, Millie Santiago creates a compelling Myra. Ghost-Writer demands the skills of a one-woman show, and Santiago bravely, elegantly meets this demand. Myra speaks to us as if we were a stranger, perhaps a reporter, who has come to the writing room. Within few staged interactions she shares moments with Woolsey and his wife that have caused her to respond as she does. Through further narration she brings the characters of a beau, her typing instructor, and the unheard sound of Mr. Woolsey’s voice to prick our imaginations. She casts a spell.

Dwight Burtis is new to the Heartwood stage. He brings depth to the seemingly simple nature of Mr. Woolsey, allowing us to care about him, the focus of his writing and his life. His editing scene with Santiago is a highlight of a close collaboration between actors. I longed for more and hope The Heartwood and Burtis will enjoy continued partnership.

Dixie Weisman’s Vivian Woolsey breezes into the writing room, clearly a woman familiar with control. Yet she is wife to a man she describes as, “always somewhere else.” Her demeanor allows the complexity of a woman safeguarding her marriage while encouraging the quality of her husband’s career. Weisman’s ability to balance these differences deserves high praise.

One unique quality of live theater is that it can focus on a slow dance, in one room, over years of interaction and routine. We can intimately hear and witness the importance of non-verbal communication. In moments of silence we can reflect on our own lives and on similar emotions that cascaded too quickly to incorporate them as they happened to us.

Michael Hollinger’s nuanced play, Griff Braley’s insightful direction and three exceptional local actors offer the perfect ingredients to unfold the complexities in this intricate story. What’s more, the technical gifts of Letitia Munson and her crew bring the writing room to life, surrounding us in Myra’s vision. The books are real, the lights mirror the day and multiple emotions, and the set provides a revealing juxtaposition of warmth and stark simplicity.

Take a chance and feel the intimacy and power within well-crafted live theater. It’s a perfect time since Heartwood is even offering free tickets to first-time attendees of Heartwood productions. Again, see their website for details.

Evening performances at the Poe Theater at Lincoln Academy begin at 7:30 on January 25 and 26 with a Sunday 3:00 matinee on January 27. Seating is general, though special arrangements may be made at the time of reservation. Shuttle parking is available in the upper parking lot, with doorstep service – request at time of reservation. Tickets are $12/students and $20/adults. Reservations are strongly suggested by calling 207.563.1373 or For show synopsis, venue directions and video trailers, visit

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