between one ongoing strike A skit by Hollywood screenwriters and actors titled “Pay the Writer” prompts applause before anyone can say anything. Never mind that its sphere is primarily the literary world, not the cinematic one; Cyrus Holt (Ron Canada), the writer at the center of Tawney O’Dell’s play, appears to speak for all low-paid writers when he writes that powerful injunction in a copy of his book that has been adapted as a film. is being converted.
Holt’s agent, Bruston Fischer (Brian Batt), has the thankless task of acting as a go-between for his client and the filmmaker, who has been paid nothing more than a small advance. Despite the thunderousness of a title, the real focus of this heartbreaking memoir is the relationship between Holt and Fischer: the one an ailing, thrice-divorced writer, the other his confidante, therapist and supporter.
Under the sharp direction of Karen Carpenter, the play moves back and forth between present-day New York City and Holt’s Lothario days in the East Village, Paris, and Los Angeles nearly 40 years ago. When we first meet him, Holt is basking in penthouse luxury, anxiously waiting for his new manuscript from his French translator, Jean Luc (Steven Hawke). He is now “the black author on every American Lit curriculum that kids try to avoid reading,” as he sarcastically puts it.
But before he became a star in the literary sky, Holt was a struggling writer. As a portrait of the artist as a young man, it is necessary to mention the Big Bang moment in the play. The moment comes in a strange, if slightly overwritten, scene when younger versions of Holt (Garrett Turner) and Fisher (Miles G. Jackson), who was then working as a junior editor, visit a publishing house. See you outside. They share opinions on the relative merits of Tolstoy and Richard Wright before Holt gives Fisher a copy of his manuscript. A graceful expression gleams on his line-free face as Jackson reads the passages aloud, but the tin-eared prose left me yearning for Keats’ “unheard tunes.” Holt’s novel, about a mother who kills her child, is heavily influenced by Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”. And comparison hurts.
Although its sarcastic, knowing comments about the hardline publishing world have occasionally appeared on the television show “Call My Agent!” offers the odd pleasure of being stilted, but the dialogue becomes blunt in clichés and frequently gets bogged down in expression. Several characters remind Holt with incredible regularity about his National Book Awards, his Pulitzers and best sellers; The scene with his estranged son, Leo (Garrett Turner, in a sensitive act) is “Do You Remember?” are built on a creaking foundation. Of course you don’t” was repeated over and over again.
Other characters are given one-dimensional roles, including Holt’s standoffish, runway-ready daughter, Gigi, (Danielle Summons), his equally glamorous wife, Lana (Marcia Cross), and subtle-as-heart-attack Jean Luc. As a mild antagonist or as collateral damage to a huge career. All of these people paid the price of working with an extremely self-involved writer, and it’s unclear whether it was ultimately worth it for them – or for us.
pay the author
at the Pershing Square Signature Center, Manhattan, through September 30; paythewriterplay.com. Running Time: 2 Hours.
This review is supported by Critical Minded, an initiative to invest in the work of cultural critics from historically underrepresented backgrounds.