PITTSFIELD - Real- life cultural figures have been fertile sources for playwright Mark St. Germain's inventive, probing imagination.
In his newest play, " Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah," which is having its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company's St. Germain Stage, St. Germain creates an imagined meeting between two literary titans, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, in Fitzgerald's apartment ( beautifully designed by David M. Barber) in the colorful and notorious Garden of Allah residential complex in Los Angeles.
It is July 4, 1937. " Gone With the Wind" is all the talk. In the pool courtyard outside Fitzgerald's apartment, there's a party going on. Inside, Fitgerald is toiling under the close scrutiny of a driving taskmistress, Evelyn Montaigne ( sharply and crisply played by Angela Pierce), who has been sent by studio boss Louis B. Mayer to make sure that Fitzgerald ( a tin- voiced Joey Collins who skitters across the stage in Chaplinesque fashion and sounds like a glad- handing door- to- door salesman from the midwest) finishes rewrites on a screenplay and that he doesn't fall off the wagon on which he has been precariously balanced for nine days.
Enter Hemingway ( an often commanding Ted Koch), uninvited, a growling bearlike figure of a man who is wrestling with addictions, demons and suppressed fears and insecurities of his own.
They talk of art, commerce, women, men, writing, relationships, Hollywood, taste. Theirs is an odd dynamic that erupts in a brilliantly staged fight that finds two dinosaurs having at each other until they are spent and no closer to narrowing a divide that may not be that wide to begin with.
But whatever appeal St. Germain finds in the intellectual and physical squaring off between these two men remains largely a private matter.
To begin with, there's an imbalance, certainly on stage, if not in the play itself. It's not just Collins' voice that is thin and reedy, his Fitzgerald is as well. He's no match for Koch's far more complex Hemingway More important, St. Germain doesn't given us much to care about. These are two self- absorbed men staking out territory. By the time " Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah" ends, Fitzgerald either will or will not have made his deadline; he either will or will not have fallen off the wagon and whatever happens matters little. We are not any closer to the hearts of darkness that beat within each of these three characters at the end of the play than we are at the beginning.