Ten short stories, some interconnected, about actors at professional and personal crossroads.
Coey (August 13, 2011, etc.), now based in New Hampshire, pursued an acting career earlier in life but shifted to writing. In this collection, he brings autumnal and apparently autobiographical shading to a series of elegiac tales featuring Northeast-based actors at various turning points in their careers. In “The Rehearsal,” a besotted young actor awaits the actress he desires in an empty theater, then runs lines with a mysterious woman who stumbles into the audition space. In “All That,” a boy on the road with his boozing thespian father gets a taste of the seedier side of life onstage and off. A former actor, helping out at an ill-attended New Hampshire funeral, learns of the downward spiral of a one-time Oscar nominee in “Fagan.” In a four-story sequence, New York City waiter and aspiring actor McGee prepares for a spot at Princeton University’s McCarter Theatre, toys with being a writer, and pursues Mona, a fickle actress playing an insect in an out-of-town stage production. Through his various male leads, and with an economy of detail, Coey effectively conveys a disillusion that’s reminiscent of Nathanael West’s novels about Hollywood. The McGee stories are the most compelling, which may make readers wish that the collection had focused even more on them, and that experiments such as “Out of Work,” featuring pronouns as characters, were discarded. There’s also a certain retro-noir quality to this collection, particularly in its depiction of women, who largely serve as sirens to bewitch and bother the male protagonists (“He thought she was cold and calculating which was unattractive, but her face was with him always”). The two remaining stories, “Places” and “The Understudy,” are somewhat repetitive in theme, with the latter bringing the collection to a rather abrupt close.
Spare, evocative tales of alienation in the acting life.