‘The Granite State’ — a writer’s dilemma
He draws you in with his wit and intellect. He’s loquacious, dramatic, entertaining. He’s self-absorbed, hedonistic, moody, with a penchant for falling in love. He’s a writer named George in Charles Morey’s brand new play, “The Granite State.”
For a writer, Morey’s play about a writer is somewhat like a window into one’s own soul, while for others it’s a rare glimpse into that world. And Morey, former artistic director of the Peterborough Players, isn’t holding anything back in this world premiere — it’s the good, the bad and the ugly in his character George that is so engrossing.
But unlike most, this writer is famous and has just won a prestigious lifetime achievement award that comes with a $2 million prize. George — played brilliantly by Anderson Matthews — isn’t taking it the way one might expect, though. He wonders if it might mean the end for his career. His worst fear is staring him in the face: Has he become a has-been?
As he says, the gods are messing with him. And the drama in his head plays out all around him as a double-booked weekend at his home in Hancock, New Hampshire, presents further challenges.
Set in the Monadnock region, the State of New Hampshire is a character in itself. Familiar landmarks, restaurants and stores are name-dropped to good effect. Residents will feel right at home and visitors will get a taste of what the Granite State has to offer. But this comfortable and familiar setting is about to be disrupted.
The ghosts of relationships past, present and future come to call on George, just as he’s entered a state of career, and indeed personal, crisis over the meaning of his award and what to do with the money. His son, Tom, and his son’s girlfriend, Carrie, show up with George’s ex-wife, Anna, for a weekend of family bonding, and in his disorganized state George is caught off guard. Wasn’t it next weekend they were coming? Nevertheless, it’s a supportive family unit, played respectively by Tom Frey, Karron Graves and Joyce Cohen. They’re just what George needs: a sounding board for all his troubles. Whether he can see past the end of his own nose to theirs, however, is questionable. As his son, Tom, knows, it’s easy to get lost in George’s shadow.
Then, his first wife, also an ex, Claire turns up after 40 years of silence, and getting to the bottom of her sudden appearance becomes all-consuming. Played by Beverly Ward, her southern drawl and ball-busting ways makes Claire a force to be reckoned with.
But Morey has saved the best for last in the character of Yelizaveta, George’s new love interest played by Lisa Bostnar, who was unintentionally invited the same weekend as George’s family. Bostnar’s Russian accent is divine and she even speaks Russian! Her unapologetic demeanor puts George and others in their place more than once.
An expert production crew has created George’s home to perfection, complete with a woodsy backdrop. Under Morey’s direction, the cast delivers a believable, comical portrayal of a weekend gone awry for an aging writer, who comes to see his situation, in true dramatic fashion, as a life or death matter.
George has tangled himself into more than one knot over the weekend, and it’s his family that comes to his rescue, however much they resent the responsibility and hassle of loving him. And after the light is shone so starkly on George’s life and relationships with others, he must dig deep into his true nature for strength.
But will he, or will he crawl under some proverbial New Hampshire granite and call it quits?