The San Jose Repertory has brought Hollywood to local theater, and you still have a chance to see it. Fans of Vincent Kartheiser from “Mad Men” (Pete Campbell) can see him live on stage through Saturday evening in a modern day play titled The Death of the Novel.
Kartheiser plays Sebastian, an agoraphobic writer who has decided he won’t ever leave his apartment until his advance runs out. Sebastian is a bit of an insufferable, skeevy egotist… sort of a present day Pete Campbell. He has issues, many stemming from the aftermath of 9/11, and others from a series of deaths in his own life. When he meets beautiful Sheba (played by Vaishnavi Sharma), his life is turned upside down as he struggles to understand who she is, and whether it matters to him.
It’s quite a psychological drama, which seems to focus on the mystery of who Sheba really is. She has created an intricate family history and background for herself, none of which appears to be true. We meet the main characters in the first act, and get to know Sebastian well… then learn that we know nothing at all about Sheba. The second act is a whirlwind of psychological intrigue and drama… an overload of the senses that is almost too much to absorb by the end. But though it was tough to take our eyes off the beautiful Sheba, I thought the most interesting character was Sebastian. From what we know of him, he has only one real male friend, Philip (Patrick Kelly Jones), who is Sheba’s original boyfriend. But he also has three very important women in his life: Perry, his therapist; Claire, his hooker; and Sheba, the woman he wants but may not ever fully have. It’s a virtual id, ego and superego of females.
In particular, I thought Zarah Mahler as Claire and Amy Pietz as Perry were the best of all the actors in the show. Vincent Kartheiser also puts in an incredible amount of work in a role that requires him to talk almost non-stop through both acts.
It is not my favorite show that I’ve ever seen at the Rep, but there are several good points about the show and I still recommend it. I would like to have seen it twice, or went over the script later, so I could absorb it all. Of course, anyone wanting to see a bit of “Hollywood Stardom” should get themselves down to the Rep immediately before it’s too late. It’s quite a coup to have gotten Mr. Kartheiser down to our theater, and we definitely appreciate the work that he and everyone else involved put into the show. Thanks to the San Jose Repertory for an interesting and thought provoking opening to the 2012-2013 season!