A high-spirited romp through the lower depths of academe, as repressed theatrical scion/drama prof Theodore Ryan-- taking inspiration from his sozzled friend Joshua ``Ford'' Rexford, the distinguished playwright whose biography Theo is writing--seizes the day and finds a daring, joyous, illegal way to get his own play on the boards. Theo's play, Foolscap, a historical fantasy about Sir Walter Raleigh's attempt to write a play about himself just before his execution, has been ignored by the few people who've seen it as dated and unplayable, leaving Theo becalmed at North Carolina's Cavendish University, home to senile President General Irwin Kaney, football- coach-turned-Provost Buddy Tupper, Jr., and so on down the line (a long, manic line, in a procession worthy of David Lodge) to the latest high-profile hires, conference perennial Jane Nash-Gantz and fat-cat Marxist Herbert Crawford. Theo's scheme to keep his old nemesis Scottie Smith from taking over as artistic director of Cavendish's theater emboldens him first to audition for the spring production of Guys and Dolls and then to show Ford his dusty manuscript--but Ford, hours after pronouncing the play great, elopes to England with a graduate student, and Theo hatches a plan to pass Foolscap off as Raleigh's work by arranging to have a forged manuscript ``discovered'' with the unwitting help of retired Renaissance scholar Dame Winifred Throckmorton. At story's end, Theo will have completed two wildly successful plays, neither of which he can claim as his own--but he'll also have found (finally) not only true love but a sense of reconciliation with Ford's ghost (which puts in some comically literal appearances), his own trouper parents, and his vocation. Even looser-limbed than Handling Sin (1986)--the logic of Theo's mad dash to freedom won't always stand scrutiny--but thickly planted with hilarious grotesques and gorgeous comic episodes that make scrutiny your least likely reaction.