The stranger

The Novelist

By James Bosley
Directed by Rebecca Kendall
Emerging Artists Theatre Company
Mint Space
311 West 43rd Street, 5th fl. (212/279-4200)
Equity showcase (closes June 1)
Review by Arlene McKanic

Vincent, the novelist in James Bosley’s eponymous play, could be a character straight out of Camus, given the detached way in which he views the tragedies swirling around him. The play is set in an unnamed, vaguely Central American police state where political assassinations, torture, and summary executions seem to be the norm. Vincent has been laboring over a book whose hero is modeled on his old friend Enrique, a terrorist/freedom fighter whose revolutionary passion once lit a smallish fire in the writer’s heart. A series of debacles are set in motion when Enrique himself shows up in Vincent’s apartment after pulling off an assassination and begs for the novelist’s help. These calamities are witnessed and even committed by Vincent with the anomie of a man who can’t be bothered to remember the date of his mother’s recent death or be too exercised about the fast approach of his own. Troy Schremmer’s cool performance, Bosley’s crisp writing, and Rebecca Kendall’s direction, gave the story a fascination it probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Vincent refuses to be a victim. He also won’t play the games being run by Enrique, played with a pantherine menace by Francisco Lorite; his writing-class student, the hyperactive Ivan, played with a peculiarly American energy by Jason Hare; Enrique’s beautiful and grieving sister Maria (Marilyn Sanabria), who comes to Vincent for information after her brother’s death; or the thug she brings with her (Sean Matic), who believes Vincent ratted Enrique out. Vincent and Maria do make a tender connection, but it’s ephemeral. There are moments when Vincent identifies with his martyred friend; Enrique might have been a terrorist, but at least he acted. But at the end we find the novelist where we first saw him, alone in his small, badly lit flat.

Carter Inskeep’s set design was simple, with a chair, a bed, bookshelves. Jason Marin’s lighting design was equally spare and low-key; often the light lingered just on Vincent’s writing desk/kitchen table before going all together. The eye was drawn to the naked light bulb that hung toward stage left. Always the last element to fade during a blackout, it recalled the stubbornly gleaming light bulb in Guernica, another work of art set in a time of war. Kendall’s direction was good, though she might rein in some of her actors -- their hand gestures, especially Lorite’s, called attention to themselves. But The Novelist is a thought-provoking play about moral choice.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2003 Arlene McKanic