But it holds together well enough for light comedy. This is a tight little production, well cast, studded with small production details. In one elegant move, for instance, the passage of time is simply registered by Lepard's pulling a bottle out of a desk drawer. Wayne David Parker, an extremely gifted and completely shameless character actor, plays a venal literary agent and if you've never seen one of his characters, that's reason enough to see this play. He touches on the stage with the force of a tornado and invents his own logic. Paul Hopper, another Purple Rose ensemble player often cast in buffoonish, Falstaffian parts, makes a surprisingly graceful and elegant academic sidekick. Direction, light, sound, and set design create sequences that move a lot faster and more efficiently, frankly, than some of the dialogue, which at times is almost as leaden as real ivory tower repartee.
Academic plays, maybe not surprisingly, are hard to pull off in an academically sophisticated town. It's not that academics never find themselves the darlings of Oprah and Jerry Springer, it's just that by the time they do, they usually aren't very well thought of in the academic world anymore, so some of the basic plotlines of Henry Boyle are a hard swallow. Yet The Late Great Henry Boyle isn't intended as an exposé of academic enterprise so much as it is a convenient setting to say a few interesting things about a forgotten Roman philosopher and fame, and it ends with a surprisingly tantalizing mystery. Did he or didn't he jump into the volcano?
[Review published May 2006]