note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Beverly Creasey
Eleanor Shields always wears sensible shoes. A long grey raincoat covers a conservative grey houndstooth wool suit, signalling a grey life in John Kuntz' shimmering new play "Miss Price" at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre.
Shimmering because Kuntz manages to blend humor, pathos, life and death and a love of literature into a delightful play about two librarians --- one we see and one we don't.
Kuntz' writing is sensitive, funny and abrasive enough to make us search our memories for the formidable librarians of our youth. Paula Plum (for whom Kuntz wrote the play) is Boston's Maggie Smith --- and "Lettice And Loveage" did come to my mind, but Kuntz' play is much better. Plum glides, parades and dances around her cramped little library dominion, mistress of all she surveys, a desperate despot on the verge of disappearance into the stacks.
Redemption comes in the form of an unwanted assistant, hired by an absent director. This Miss Price transforms Eleanor into a human being capable of genuine affection and even (gasp) warmth. Eric C. Engel's direction is faultless, right down to the hilarious (anonymous) book-return slot which comes to life only after hours. (I don't know why it's so wonderful to see books come popping through the slot; it just is.)
Dewey Dellay's quirky original music (Especially for Eleanor's foxtrot around Susan Zeeman Rogers' shabby genteel New England library set) ties each of the scenes together and makes "Miss Price" linger in the mind and bring on a smile.