After watching Hotel Oracle, the last confusing collaboration between writer Bixby Elliot and director Stephen Brackett, I was hoping that Mr. Elliot would skip the intellectualism and the magical realism and simply get to the point. With PN1923.45 LS01 Volume 2 [The Book Play], he's gone one better: he's pinpointed the message. That message--about homosexuality's struggle for rights and need for acceptance--is at times a little overbearing. However, the playful magical realism (which collides a couple from the '50s, the '80s, and a mysterious stranger from the future) keeps the action at least theatrically plausible. Furthermore, the central characters are likeable and understandable, even at their worst, and their struggles are identifiable and sincere. Jonathan (James Ryan Caldwell), ashamed of being gay, tries to avoid committing to his open partner, Brad (Yuval Boim), even after Brad is bashed for it. In the '50s, things are even worse for Laurence (Chad Heoppner), who expresses his shame with his self-loathing homophobia and a shy attempt at marriage with a spinster librarian, Madeline (Marguerite Stimpson). The contrast--seamlessly (and at times emphatically) navigated by Brackett--speaks wonders for the cultural differences and struggles. If the fiery Everett Quinton's performance as Harry, the Fierstein-like proselytizer, weren't so emotional, it would seem superfluous; as is, it's just another layer to a solid tome.
[Also reviewed by: Patrick]