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BWW Book Reviews: SMUT

BWW Book Reviews: SMUT

Fans of playwright Alan Bennett were no doubt excited to hear his new play PEOPLE a late entry to this year's National Theatre's schedule and due to be broadcast worldwide on NT Live. But in the meantime, whet your appetite for Bennett's insightful eye for character by reading SMUT. As the title suggests the two characters that Bennett examines in his twin stories are drawn to the subversive side of sex. Secrets are also of primary concern here. In fact, if it weren't so much fun to tell friends you are reading SMUT, I'd suggest Bennett re-title the volume SECRETS. Rest assured, however, this is no FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY sort of smut but the English sort that lies quietly beneath the surface causing more concern than pleasure.

The first tale, "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson" introduces a recent widow who earns extra income as a 'demonstrator' at a local medical school. She also daringly decides to open her home to paying lodgers, and that is where her tale takes a twist for the sordid. In lieu of rent from a free-spirited young couple, a voyeuristic arrangement becomes part of the tenancy. Soon, paranoia envelopes Mrs. Donaldson when she fears her fellow 'demonstrators' as well as the medical staff are sniggering about her nocturnal activities.

In the second, "The Shielding of Mrs Forbes", a prim but forthright mother highly disapproves of her fastidious son Graham's choice of a wife; a plain Jane practical girl she deems unworthy. Unbeknownst to mother and wife, Graham has been sneaking off to clandestine meetings with Kevin, a blackmailing policeman who aims to keep weddEd Graham paying even after the nuptials. Despite the abundance of family secrets, the end proves that Mrs. Forbes may not have needed shielding after all.

Being a playwright, Bennett has a terrific ear for dialogue and can stop you mid-page with his unique turn of phrase: "The vicar likes you to pretend you believe in God. Everyone knows this is a formality. It's like the air hostess going through the safety drill." Anyone familiar with his work will see similarities to his TALKING HEADS plays; both detail the interior lives of introspective Yorkshire women where sex (or smut) is the secret around which the characters' inner strife spins. This is a slight (hardly unseemly) volume, but well worth a read while waiting for PEOPLE.

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Michael T. Mooney Michael T. Mooney has devoted his life to the performing arts, having been involved as performer, writer, director, and administrator. Coming to Paper Mill Playhouse in 1994 from The Growing Stage Theatre in Netcong, New Jersey, he served in the fundraising department under Development Director John McEwen. He became involved in the theatre's accessibility programming, eventually assuming full responsibility for the theatre's nationally recognized Access programs and services. In 2001, he was appointed Manager of Outreach and Access Programs, a position he designed himself. Mr. Mooney has led community drives for the Victims of 9-11, Jersey Cares, New Eyes for the Needy, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lainie's Angels, First Book NJ, Tsunami Relief, The American Red Cross, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In addition to his Access responsibilities, he also directed Paper Mill's Senior Players Workshop, managed the award-winning Adopt-a-School Project and has been both instructor and adjudicator for their STAR program. He is a founding member of LEAD and served on the board of directors for The Fund for the New Jersey Blind, The Audio-Description Coalition of America (ADC), The New Jersey Cultural Access Network, and The New Jersey Theatre Alliance. For five years, he studied directing and writing for theatre-in-the-round with England's Sir Alan Ayckbourn and has staged more than 60 productions of plays and musicals in Northern New Jersey, including the American premieres of four of Sir Alan's plays. Michael is the proud recipient of the 2008 New Jersey Governor's Award for Arts Education and the 2003 Ann Klein Advocate Award for his work with senior citizens and people with disabilities. Easter Seals New Jersey named him one of their "Miracle Workers" of 2008. He lives in Neptune, New Jersey, having also lived in Central Florida and London, England.


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