A writer's muse can take many forms.
That is one of the lessons learned (along with "don't leave a paper trail") in Fiction, a drama by Steven Dietz that takes an inside look at writers and writing, which opened at Amphibian Stage Productions on Thursday.
Michael (Jakie Cabe) and Linda (Lydia Mackay) are married novelists. One is more successful than the other, but both are completely absorbed with their craft. They are wordsmiths first and human beings later. On the outer edges of the couple's life, we meet Abby (Cara L. Reid), a snotty and completely joyless assistant at a writers' retreat who, initially, doesn't appear to have any interest in anyone's life, including her own. But, as the story progresses, we learn that she is going to have a profound impact on the couple and that this play is really about her.
The acting and direction, by Mary Catherine Burke, in this production are absolutely first-rate. The characters, all of whom have quick wits and bloated vocabularies, spar with carefully measured ferocity. And, no matter who starts the skirmish, the eventual winner is never obvious.
The writing, however, is going to make you love or hate this show. This is a case of a writer writing about writers writing. You are not likely to ever find a text that is more in love with itself than this one. It revels in its own cleverness and its smug characters wear their intellectual superiority like uniforms, even though the world around them does not always seem to agree with them.
So there are great exchanges of dialogue and the story arc (which is basically a soap opera with an advanced degree) refuses to be predictable. And the characters, while totally unlikeable, never cease to be interesting.
This is a show that is meant to be engaged with your brain, not your heart. If are willing to play an intellectual game of "Who's on first?," making guesses about character motivations and the next turn the plot will take, then you are likely to find it gripping. But if you are looking for genuine human emotions, seek elsewhere. The characters in this talky drama wrap their souls in shielding wordplay and then put them in the freezer long before the curtain goes up.
Overall then, this is an exceptionally well presented play where you might find your glass half-empty or half-full. And it will be the author, not the actors, who determines whether or not you like the taste of the content.