According to novelist Franklin Woolsey (Dennis Parlato), the hyphen in “gentleman-farmer” suggests a dual nature. That points to the hyphenated title of Michael Hollinger’s new play, Ghost-Writer, onstage at Ensemble Theatre, and suggests that the tale is divided between a ghost and a writer. Woolsey, the deliberate, remote writer, is more catalyst than character in this play: He might be haunting his one-time “typewriter girl,” Myra Babbage (Annie Fitzpatrick), the play’s focal point and principal narrator. Following Woolsey’s death in 1919, she continues work on his final novel — much to the dismay of his overbearing, jealous wife Vivian (Lourelene Snedeker) — with words that spring from some indistinct source. Is it Woolsey’s ghost or Myra’s fervid imagination, after 20 years of working with him, intimately taking his dictation?
Hollinger’s script, essentially a monologue by Myra recalling scenes from her work with Woolsey and interactions with imperious Vivian, can be slow-moving, despite Fitzpatrick’s luminous characterization
Hollinger’s Opus was a hit for ETC in 2007; Ghost-Writer recently won a Barrymore Award as the best new play in Philadelphia. It’s as much a meditation for writers as for theater lovers, but both should enjoy this thoughtful work.
GHOST-WRITER, presented by Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, continues through Oct. 30. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.