TEMPER by Layne Fargo


Email this review


The theater is a tempestuous, bloody place to be in Fargo’s prickly debut.

The struggle is real for 30-something stage actress Kira Rascher. She lives hand to mouth with her best friend (with benefits), Spence, works a day job she hates, and auditions for theater roles every chance she gets. She longs to star opposite the enigmatic Malcolm Mercer, who runs Chicago’s Indifferent Honest Theater Company alongside his partner, and platonic roommate, Joanna Cuyler. Auditioning for Malcom for a new two-person play called Temper is a visceral experience, but not just for Kira. Joanna hates Kira on sight, pointing out that “she’s beautiful, to be sure, but in an obvious way. Nearly vulgur.” Kira gets the part, opposite Malcolm, and to say the two have chemistry would be an understatement. The script is very physical, and Malcolm is a merciless taskmaster willing to go to ridiculous lengths to squeeze the best from his actors, including inviting Kira’s horrid, simpering ex-boyfriend to rehearsal as a tactic to stoke her rage. Meanwhile, the self-contained Joanna stews in a brew of jealousy and wasted opportunity, doing all the grunt work for the company while the odious Malcolm stirs the pot and beds his co-stars. All this tension would drive anyone crazy, but for these two women, it’s bound to get messy. Fargo’s propulsive writing style and Joanna's and Kira’s dueling narratives drive the increasingly frenzied chain of events that play out in the lives of two very different women who find themselves at an inevitable breaking point. While certainly effective, the finale isn’t shocking, especially after getting an eyeful of two otherwise intelligent women seething under the toxic spell of such an insufferable man.

This caustic passion play may not knock your socks off, but Fargo is an author to watch.

Pub Date: July 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-9821-0672-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2019


FictionAN ANONYMOUS GIRL by Greer Hendricks
by Greer Hendricks
FictionSOCIAL CREATURE by Tara Isabella Burton
by Tara Isabella Burton