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Working-class origins and the slippery slope to success on stage and screen combine in insightful ways in this second from Bauer (Boondocking, 1997, etc.), whose knack for rendering credible characters, though, can’t overcome the familiarity of her story. Ren and Lou met in Vermont’she an aspiring actor, he an up-and-coming playwright. Their attraction was mutual and intense, but unlike other summer-stock romances, this one also had staying power: the two married young and stayed in love. Years in New York hone their respective talents, but Ren garners only occasional notice for her roles and winds up with more commercials and voice-overs than stage parts, while Lou, after finally being noticed by the Times in an off-off-Broadway production, starts to get calls from Hollywood producers. He walks the walk well enough to have one of his plays done over as a DeNiro film, but deadly reviews cut short his triumph. He can still pitch projects and have them greenlighted, but more and more they’re of the made-for-TV variety, and more and more they get shunted into limbo. Desperate for another break, Lou pushes hard for the idea of relocating from their house in the Connecticut woods to L.A., which they do, only to change their minds during a head-clearing, hazardous road-trip through Baja. Meanwhile, living beyond their means has brought creditors calling just as parents and friends are aging—the former into senility, the latter through the traditional child-raising and workaday routines—until both Ren and Lou find themselves wearying of the chase. Vignettes that excel in sensitivity as they explore the charms and costs of artistic ambition, but that sadly fail to surmount the inherent predictability of the larger story.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-882593-26-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Bridge Works
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999


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