A COMPANY OF THREE by Varley O’Connor


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An engaging second from actress O’Connor (Like China, 1990) is a roman á clef about the mercurial careers and emotional histrionics of three inseparable New York actors in the late 1970s.

The three first meet at a hotly competitive actors’ workshop run by suave, sneering Andre Sadovsky in upstairs Carnegie Hall: narrator Robert Holt is a driven perfectionist from New Jersey whose mother was a Rockette and father deserted the family when Robert was two; tall gay Patrick O’Doherty is a former Broadway dancer whose scary secret sex life will eventually fray relations among them all; and fresh from Coffeyville, Kansas, at just 21, Irene Jane Walpers is the natural ingénue. The three pal around town as charmingly improvident artists, sharing apartments, tips on auditions, and moral support; they become hand-picked protégés of Andre, who runs the exclusive summer-arts festival in Connecticut where Robert and Irene’s flirtation is interrupted by Andre’s whisking her away to live with him as assistant of the hour and traveling companion. Further tensions are introduced when Patrick, a pathological liar who can’t find his true role, takes to his bed in depression for days after rejection or vanishes for nights of cruising, then reappears badly beaten up. O’Connor knows her stuff—getting the agent runaround, understudying for actors who won’t move over, sleeping with people to get connections, landing the cushy job in a soap opera that turns into a sorry career. Entering her gritty Hell’s Kitchen of the hand-to-mouth actor is like watching a documentary of a bygone New York. Eventually, success strikes the one we least expect, Robert, who picks up women in department stores: he feels he’s lost to his friends when he moves out to LA, yet he can’t change his true nature, which is love of good roles—and Irene and Patrick.

Despite the soap-opera finish at hospital bedside, a cozy story of three likable artists on the up and up.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 2003
ISBN: 1-56512-373-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2003