Opening Nights

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The plot revolves around a divorced couple, Shaara and Boyd Sewell. In the five years since their divorce, Shaara has established herself as a tenured professor of costuming in the “academic backwash” of Magoor College. There she has settled in, a slightly eccentric inhabitant of Hubbard, Georgia, to rear, with some success, her thirteen-year-old son, Kevin. Boyd, on the other hand, has disdained the relative security of academia for a hand-to-mouth existence as a theater director. Along the way, he has acquired a pretty, young, nonworking wife.

In a moment of weakness, Shaara arranges for Boyd to come to Magoor to direct the opening production of the college’s new theater and, incidentally, spend the seven weeks of preparation time with his son. Boyd selects a heavy avant-garde drama with a mismatched, but talented, cast of four professional actors to inaugurate the theater.

As the summer progresses, Boyd, Shaara, and Boyd’s current wife, Wendy, use the time to work through old emotional issues and reestablish relationships on a new, more mature basis. The supporting characters in this triad of personal dramas move in and out of the story to help focus and clarify the action at the same time that the actual theater production takes form.

The author uses the searing summer heat of Georgia to set the pace and mood of the book, and the isolation of the setting to move the plot along. As she does so, she reveals some universal truths about life and human relationships. The reader is carried along unsuspectingly to a startling climax, but puts down the book with the feeling that the players in this drama have, in fact, triumphed.