A fictional episode in the life of novelist/playwright Edna Ferber brings the writer, now a middle-aged spinster, to New Jersey to champion justice and young love.
Although Edna enjoyed acclaim as the co-author of The Royal Family, she’s always dreamed of acting in it. Now she has a chance to play the matriarch in a one-week production her co-author, George S. Kaufmann, is directing in a theater in suburban New Jersey. It’s 1940, and the rapidly changing events in Europe seem to have left peaceful Maplewood untouched. As Edna settles in and enjoys lemon phosphate and tuna casserole at the Full Moon Cafe, she meets some of the lesser members of the cast, including Evan Street, a dazzlingly handsome young man who’s understudying one of the leads at the request of his mother, a friend of the producer’s. But as rehearsals begin, Evan makes himself more and more unpopular, especially with stage manager Dakota, whose mother, Clorinda Roberts Tyler, is a successful evangelist in Maplewood. Dak, Clorinda’s designated heir, is engaged to one of his mother's disciples, although he seems more attached to his stage work and to Nadine Novack, a young actress who knew both him and Evan in Hollywood. The presence of a couple of Nazi sympathizers isn’t the first hint of trouble in Maplewood, but it’s certainly one of the more disturbing elements—especially when one of the cast members is found shot to death. Edna, increasingly convinced that the seeds of the murder were planted years ago in Hollywood, is determined to find the facts, whatever the risk.
In Ifkovic’s latest fictionalization of the adventures of Edna Ferber (Downtown Strut, 2013, etc.), the clever plot and colorful original characters are very welcome, though the leisurely pace and the attempts to emulate Kaufmann’s and Ferber’s wit fall flat.