The Author's Voice

What's behind that door?" This line from Richard Greenberg's The Author's Voice is also its premise, and that of Peter Hedges's Imagining Brad. I sniff an assignment behind this pair of Drama Dept. one-acts. Both show off their writers' talents in playful if contrived literary baubles.

For The Author's Voice, imagine Bright Lights, Big City flavored with Rumplestiltskin and Beauty and the Beast. In the aspiring novelist's garret, Todd's glamorous editor Portia pokes about for clues to his character. The handsome hunk quotes from his book, but otherwise has little to say. Perhaps a gnome who lives in the closet really writes his stuff, she jokes. Well . . . yes. When Portia leaves, a pathetic hooded figure drags himself across the floor, his latest pages in his mouth. This is Gene, a whiny, deformed writer Todd fronts for. The piece satirizes the vanities of publishing, but the parody is unoriginal, and the vacuous pretty boy and the barracuda in a miniskirt are both stock figures. Evan Yionoulis's direction is too bland to mine this Grimm-like fantasia for all it's worth, but Philip Seymour Hoffman is a treat as the sly kvetch of a recluse whose machinations supply both laughs and a neat twist of an ending.

Imagining Brad asks: Who is Brad? When Nashville native Dana Sue Kay meets Brad's Wife at a church social, the colorful nonstop-talking Kay pumps the newcomer about no-show hubby Brad while bursting with tales of her own studly mate. It turns out Brad never leaves the house, doesn't have pictures taken. Does Brad really exist? The comparison of the two husbands is finally little more than a grotesque conceit, but Hedges has written the over-the-top Southern yenta some terrific lines and Polly Draper delivers them with comic bravura, modestly declaring, for example, that she's "not God, but I'm part God: my hair feels holy, and the smooth skin on my bottom," as she pats herself with sublime satisfaction.

 
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