The Naked Librarian: A Love Story

And On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco

I saw so much of myself in Goosie in the first 10 minutes of Marisa Smith’s new play (streaming at Northern Stage) that I thought I was The Naked Librarian. Chances are better than even that at least one character’s tale will hit home with you, too.

For all of us, beneath what might appear to be an ordinary, if not staid, life is at least one unexpected story, which sometimes tragically goes untold. Fortunately for her four related characters, Marisa Smith has written a funny and heartwarming play that gives them the opportunity to look into the camera to tell their stories, individual to each one but part of an intergenerational narrative.

Diane J. Findlay begins as Goosie, contentedly clutching her book on a park bench and remembering the love of her life. She is followed by Pumpernickel (Steve Routman), said love who recounts his own memories of Goosie and of the decades that followed. His line, “One [life] is not enough, you know. It’s never enough,” will pierce your heart. Susan Haefner picks up the thread as Martha, who sets a breathless scene of near-cleaving (you’ll see) at Boston’s Liberty Hotel. The youngest character, Aviva (Caitlin Deerin) weaves all of the threads together as she walks a beach while making decisions that will define her own life story.

Each monologue is cozy and intimate, and utterly convincing. Director Jess Chayes and team have done an admirable job in working with settings integral to each character. (Goosie was actually filmed in New York’s Central Park, where according to Findlay, a few curious rats kept creeping closer as the camera rolled.) Even Aviva’s beach is real, if more local than indicated in the script.

On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco by Anton Chekhov is the second production in this double-header, a one-person play starring Emmy Award winner Gordon Clapp, directed by Jack Neary. Different in style and tone from The Naked Librarian and with more physical comedy, it is nevertheless a fitting partner. Clapp’s character, too, has stories to tell and seemingly, no one to tell them to. His life unfolds like bursts of pent up steam when he is (mercifully) given a podium.

Both plays are currently streaming until November 29. For tickets, contact Northern Stage via its website. For more information about the actors and creative team, click here to read the playbill. (Photos of Susan Haefner, top, as Martha and of Gordon Clapp, in character, above, courtesy of Northern Stage.)

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Susan B. Apel retired from a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.