Fiction is a wonderful wordsmith’s mystery, full of eloquent dialogue that peels away at the truth bit by bit.
This intriguing play, tautly directed by MaryJo Alexander at Actors’ Summit, is full of tension as it explores the line between truth and fiction for two authors, who are husband and wife. Fiction, a regional premiere in Akron, was written in 2002 by Steven Dietz, one of the nation’s most produced playwrights.
Dietz, who divides his time between Seattle and Austin, Texas, also penned the comedy Becky’s New Car, which Actors’ Summit produced nearly two years ago.
In Fiction, writers Michael and Linda begin their game of verbal sparring the minute they meet in a Parisian café. Linda refers to Michael as “a man who has made his way through the world with bluster and hyperbole” yet both find the artfully turned phrase a powerful aphrodisiac.
Twenty years later in their marriage, they discover that Linda has a malignant brain tumor and has only three weeks left to live. She asks to read her husband’s journals, and he reluctantly agrees. He will read hers once she has died.
As the passionate, intellectual Linda, actress Sally Groth’s face seems to be an open book. Or is it? She brings an intense yet luminous vitality to Linda that makes it understandable why her husband would remember her as “achingly vibrant” upon their first meeting. But writing, like talk, can be cheap. Is “achingly vibrant” really what Michael wrote about Linda in his journal that first day in Paris?
Through Michael, Dietz points out a truth about human nature: We tend to romanticize the memory of momentous events in our lives, when what was said may actually have been mundane.
As portrayed by Bob Keefe, Michael is a smug bore who’s so in love with his own words, they become trite and precious. He completely turns off Abby, whom he meets at a writer’s colony, with his purple language that turns everyday spoken communications into over-the-top, flowery prose.
Michael vows he’s above adapting his stories for the big screen. Nevertheless, he becomes a best-selling author whose books are turned into films.
Linda, on the other hand, is a one-hit wonder. Yet it is implied that she is the superior writer.
Fiction delves fascinatingly into the nature of writing as well as the egotism involved in the process. One of Linda’s former writing professors is quoted as saying, “The lies begin when we lift the pen.”
Actors’ Summit newcomer Cassandra Capocci creates a no-nonsense character in Abby, who cuts through all of Michael and Linda’s posturing. She is attractive, dry, unerringly confident and highly likable. Although at first we don’t understand how she really fits into this story, she becomes a surprisingly vital character.
Secrets grow like cancers in this story. Dietz’s elegantly written play toys with our minds, keeping us constantly guessing. His drama is replete with irony, and its scenes of foreshadowing are tightly connected to the rest of the story.
Fiction is for mature audiences only, due to its adult language and content. Audiences will thoroughly enjoy soaking up Dietz’s rich language in this well-crafted story.
Let’s just say Linda and Michael’s truth IS stranger than fiction.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.