“[A] sexy, witty novel”
“Very cleverly done…hilarious…well-paced, sexy…and deeply steeped in the traditions and personalities of the theatrical world.”
New York Times Book Review
“A biting comedy of manners…lively, useful, whip–smart.”
The Barnes & Noble Review From the author of The Notorious Dr. August and Father of Frankenstein comes this polished, penetrating, and very funny novel that skewers the New York theater scene and illuminates the contrast of gay and straight lifestyles.
Playwright Caleb Doyle suffers through deep-set writer's block, even as his sister Jessie finds success as the assistant to British actor Henry Lewse, the openly gay star of a ludicrous Broadway musical. As Henry dotes on the handsome but dull-witted Toby Vogler, Toby pines for Caleb. Jessie has her own problems as the love object of director Frank Earp, whose floundering career has reduced him to staging children's plays off-off-off-Broadway. The secrets and heartaches of these many unfulfilled romances, unions, and associations unfold during the course of Caleb's bizarre birthday bash, where his pistol-packin' grandma causes even more mayhem.
The heavy themes of AIDS, sexual addiction, and unrequited love are expertly blended into the mix of slick humor and satire. Bram skillfully weaves together all the outlandish characters and their even more eccentric affairs, showing how all of them have a love-hate relationship with the theater, with each other, and with their own creative impulses. At turns graceful, shrewd, and ribald,
Lives of the Circus Animals is terrific entertainment, steeped in the authentic details of theater life. This talented author's laugh-out-loud dialogue, burlesque situations, and shrewd insight into the vagaries of love are sure to win him an even more extensive readership.
… it's well paced, sexy (both gay and straight) and deeply steeped in the traditions and personalities of the theatrical world. Lewse in particular is a fully realized creation, charmingly stepping on everyone's toes in the process of getting where he wants.
Clever stage satire and compassionate character writing distinguish this heady, humorous New York theater novel by the author of The Notorious Mr. August and Father of Frankenstein (which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters). The title (a Yeats reference) effectively conveys the fondness and gentle derision with which Bram presents his ensemble cast. Henry Lewse is a prominent British actor starring in a musical, but preoccupied with sex. His latest find is Toby Vogler, a good-looking, not terribly bright young man, honored to have the attention of a star, but too earnest to provide full satisfaction ("Why am I such bad sex?" he sobs). Toby is longing for Caleb Doyle, a playwright whose first stage success was followed by the immediate and ignominious failure of his second. Caleb's sister, Jessica, is also a theater enthusiast and works as Henry's assistant. She is loved by Frank Earp, a rather bedraggled director who has come to terms with the limits of his career, directing schoolchildren and off-off-off-Broadway plays (his current show is staged in an apartment). Presiding gloomily over the rest of the cast is Kenneth Prager ("The Buzzard of Off-Broadway"), the Times reviewer who shot down Caleb's play. After much acting, gossip, psychoanalysis and sex (mostly inept), all come together at Caleb's big-finale birthday party. As he proved in Father of Frankenstein, Bram has a sophisticated understanding of celebrity and the intersection of gay and straight worlds. His savvy-and his easy familiarity with the New York theater scene-gives edge and nuance to this witty entertainment. Agent, Edward Hibbert. (Oct. 1) Forecast: After his sweeping historical novel The Notorious Dr. August, Bram returns to a smaller canvas. Fans of Father of Frankenstein (and Gods and Monsters) will be pleased, as will Waugh and Wodehouse readers who recognize the British comedy of manners lurking inside this American theater satire. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Bram (The Notorious Dr. August) has crafted a complex story about the lives of theater people, the "circus animals" of the title. Within the New York setting, theater happens at all levels, from children's school plays to Broadway musicals to avant-garde off off Broadway. Henry Lewse is a British actor starring in a Broadway musical. Jessie Doyle is his much-needed personal assistant. Her brother, Caleb, is a playwright whose latest play was shredded by theater critic Kenneth Prager. Frank, Jessie's new boyfriend, is directing a reality play in Apartment 2B. Toby, Caleb's former lover, is trying hard to break into show biz. In a supreme comedy of errors, all these characters come together with Jessie and Caleb's mom at Caleb's birthday party. When Kenneth Prager sits next to Mom Doyle, thinking it the safest place in the room, he gets the shock of his life. The well-drawn characters run the gamut of the human condition, and the story encompasses all the joys and sorrows of everyday life, revealing that circus animals are much like the rest of us. Recommended.-Joanna M. Burkhardt, Ashaway, RI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Straight and gay lives share the stage in a good-natured Broadway valentine refreshingly free of theatrical excess. Anyone whose misbegotten past includes time on or around the boards will recognize the loving accuracy Bram (The Notorious Dr. August, 2000, etc.) brings to his often hilarious take on love spurned, mismatched, and rearranged on and way-off Broadway. The tales are hung on the lives of playwright Caleb Doyle and his sister Jessie. Caleb has not recovered from the loss of his lover to AIDS and is seriously blocked following the savaging in the New York Times of his last play. Jessie cannot bring herself to return the love of Frank Earp, an administrative assistant whose theatrical passions have been channeled to freelance directing. Jessie, who loves the theater but lacks a role, has found work managing the life of distinguished, openly gay, middle-aged British actor Henry Lewse (readers may supply their own models), who is happily making big bucks in a typically dumb and successful musical remake of a screwball comedy film. Lewse, who steals every scene he's in, has, through the miracle of commercial phone sex, stumbled into the fantasies of Caleb Doyle and, through believable coincidence (theater's a very small world) the ambitions of Caleb's beautiful, thick, actor ex-boyfriend Toby Vogler, who, if he only had a few emotions to remember, just might have a future. All of these characters have, one way or another, come into contact with Kenneth Prager, the second-string Times critic who shot down Caleb's play and who has been assigned a story on Henry Lewse. With the smooth machinations of a Feydeau farce, the progresses, regressions, and couplings lead steadily to Caleb'sbig birthday party in the penthouse he may have to sell if he can't get a good play going. Among his guests will be his little Irish Catholic police widow mum packing heat. Slick, smart, and funny.