Playwright Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour is an engaging and intriguing mix that combines a play about a publishing house in 1919 with a Twilight Zone twist. It's this twist that makes it rise above the ordinary into something else entirely. A strong ensemble and sharp direction make this a fascinating work that's well worth your time and attention.
It's a moment in time just prior to the “Roaring Twenties”, and John Pace Seavering runs a publishing house. He's about to publish his first novel, but can't seem to decide between his college friend's sprawling work, or the biography of Jessie Brewster, an African American chanteuse that he's carrying on an affair with. Enter a strange device that arrives out of the blue. This machine begins spitting out reams of paper that represent works from the latter part of the twentieth century, works that have yet to be published. It changes his perspective, and makes him ponder doing what he can to change the outcome of events yet to come.
Drew Pannebecker is very good as Seavering, and he's tormented by the knowledge he's gained from reading the texts that have spewed out of his machine. Jake Ferree impresses as his college buddy, who's written a work he's calling “The Violet Hour”. His hope is to get published so that he can marry meat-packing heiress Rosamund Plinth (a fetching and very forward Betsy Bowman) before she winds up hitched to a man her Father would prefer. Monica Parks, in a fine performance, is Jessie Brewster, who's determined to get her own work published. Antonio Rodriguez rounds out the cast as Gidger, a functionary at the business who provides a great deal of comic relief with his anachronistic outbursts, gained by reading the output of the mysterious machine.
Director Sydnie Grosberg Ronga does excellent work guiding this ensemble. She's aided by the period costumes of Ryan Hanson, as well as the wonderful scenic design of Mark Wilson, while Maureen Berry's lighting keeps the action in focus.
This is an entertaining play that maintains interest throughout. The Violet Hour continues at COCA through September 2, 2012.
Photo by John Lamb.