A Bright Ray of Darkness

Ethan Hawke. Knopf, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-385352-38-3
Hawke (Ash Wednesday) dramatizes the struggles of a Hollywood actor whose marriage has just ended because of his infidelity in this uneven roman à clef. Thirty-two-year-old William Harding is best known for having cheated on his wife, superstar singer Mary Marquis. As Harding adjusts to the end of their marriage and to sharing custody of their two young children, he simultaneously prepares to make his Broadway debut—he’s been cast as Hotspur in a new production of Henry IV (a role Hawke himself played in 2003). Harding struggles with mastering the role as part of a company including Virgil Smith, a legendary thespian regarded as Laurence Olivier’s heir, who’s playing Falstaff. Even as Harding tries to come to terms with Mary’s having moved on to another man, he holds out irrational hope that she’ll attend one of his performances. Harding’s relationship with his kids is underdeveloped, but Hawke’s behind-the-scenes look at staging a Shakespeare play provides the highlights, particularly his descriptions of the cartoonishly imposing Virgil (“Virgil was crawling to his position like a homeless madman, muttering to himself, with his dresser following, trying to give the fat man his belt and sword”). Hawke deserves credit for plumbing the dark depths of his doppelgänger. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/19/2020
Release date: 02/02/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-385-35239-0
Paperback - 410 pages - 978-0-593-39658-2
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