Remy Bumppo Theatre Company at Victory Gardens Theater Greenhouse (see Resident companies). By Steven Dietz. Dir. Nick Sandys. With Annabel Armour, David Darlow, Linda Gillum.
Linda Waterman, a once-successful novelist and teacher of creative writing, has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and given three weeks to live. She seems less upset with the prognosis than with the manner in which it’s delivered. Why must they measure these things in weeks or months, she asks us: “Why not food? ‘You have twenty really good meals left.’ Or, ‘Congratulations, you’ve endured your last public radio pledge drive.’”
It’s a finely targeted reference, one of many in Dietz’s script that tell us he’s acutely aware of his demographic. Both Linda and her husband Michael, also a novelist (indeed, we are deep in the treacherous jungle of Writers Writing About Writers Writing), are insufferably self-obsessed baby boomers, arguing about classic rock and the merits of Parisian cafés; they compare their careers to one another’s and their lives to Nabokov and Dante, all so Dietz’s audience can congratulate itself on getting the joke.
Dietz’s central contrivance, that Linda asks to read Michael’s diaries before she goes, opens up his conceit that there are many versions of the past: the way things actually happened, the way we remember them, and the way we tell the story to ourselves and others. It’s a topic worth exploring, but neither Dietz’s tight structure nor the innate charms of Armour and Darlow can mask the tiresome nature of these two hyperarticulate characters. We’d pay money to put a halt to this sort of pandering to affluent white boomers; is there a pledge drive for that?—Kris Vire