You don’t have to read the Pulitzer Prize winning book A Confederacy of Dunces to have a great time at the show Mr. Toole. The show stands perfectly well on its on without reading Mr. Toole’s hilarious and Pulitzer Prize winning book. As a matter of fact, a remarkable amount of the story takes place after Mr. Toole himself leaves the scene. For a lover of the book, this is no surprise. A Confederacy of Dunces was published posthumously, and Mr. Toole tells the tale.
|Ryan Spahn and Linda Purl in Mr. Toole
Ryan Spahn plays John Kennedy Toole- called Ken, returned from the army and teaching poetry at a girl’s college, while writing at night. He lives with his parents, his mother Thelma (Linda Purl in an epic turn) and his father John (well played by Stephen Schnetzer). Mother Thelma lives through her son in a possessive and suffocating manner. Ken is stuck at home, unable to afford leaving either financially or emotionally.
Ken is despondently alone, despite a gay love life and students that adore him. One young lady in particularly, Lisette (Julia Randall) has a crush on him and his writing that endures. He cannot break from his mother, even after Simon and Schuster show an interest in is novel. That interest results in two arduous years of rewrites that ultimately result in a final rejection which destroys him.
Thelma at a loss for purpose, then takes up the task of getting his novel published. Her single-minded determination destroys her marriage, her health and nearly her life. Her brother Arthur (Thomas G. Waites) saves her from a nursing home. But she is redeemed, in the end, by another writer, Walker Percy (John Ingle). Mr. Percy helps her to get the story published.
Mr. Toole is a wonderful experience, albeit not perfect. It is a little long, and the use of dual read poetry was superfluous for me. But these are minor issues in a show I adored. Playwright Vivian Neuwirth brings complex emotions to the fore and Director Cat Parker keeps the show moving briskly along.
Playwright: Vivian Neuwirth | Director: Cat Parker | Cast: Julia Randall, Ryan Spahn, Thomas G. Waites, Linda Purl, Stephen Schnetzer, John Ingle