Theatre Is a Class Act

Red Stage Curtain
Theatre: A Novel starts out as superficial as Entertainment Today but segues at the last minute to an analysis of the role of the arts in life. Incredibly, W. Somerset Maugham makes the thing work.

Acting is Julia Gosselyn’s career and her life. She studies people and events constantly to enrich her performances. Even as she engages in ordinary activities, she’s conscious of how she’s appearing to others.

Her husband, a poor actor but brilliant theater manager, adores her. He brings out her best on stage and bores her at home. She’s faithful to him, though people assume she’s had a lover for years.

At mid-life, Julia’s disciplined life turns topsy-turvy when she falls for a man only a few years older than her son. That son triggers Julia’s examination of her life.

Julia finds her work matters. As for sex, well, it can be fun, but it’s not nearly as enchanting as a steak with onions and fries.

Maugham ties things together so adroitly that the novel’s ending seems inevitable. He makes you understand that art must reveal life without being life.

Theatre is easy reading, the sex is all off-stage, and readers end up understanding a bit about why theater matters.

What’s not to like?

Theatre: A Novel
By W. Somerset Maugham
Literary Guild, 1937
292 pages
1937 bestseller #7
My Grade: B

Photo credit: Stage Curtain (Red) by Dominik Gwarek

©2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni