Poet s.c.hays contends that great similarities exist between two of his favorite books—F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Mary Godwin Shelley’s Frankenstein—and their authors and spouses. His play chronicles the writers’ respective struggles in their marital relationships more than a century apart, as they attempt to finish their novels.
The book starts on a problematic note, with 51 pages of introduction. Instead of letting readers experience this two-act play on their own terms, hays seems to be telling readers how to feel, noting that the plays’ creators’ and characters’ “value struggles…brilliantly takes [sic] stage, attempting to overwhelm the senses with a new and fresh look at them and their struggles.”
The stage is divided in half. On the left, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald inhabit a villa on the French Riviera in 1924, where Scott is writing Gatsby. Gatsby characters recite dialogue from that book and read from a history of the Shelley family.
The right side features Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley in early 19th century England during their fraught romance and the writing of her famous novel. Mary, Percy, Mary’s father and sister, and Frankenstein characters reenact short scenes from that book, talk in flowery 19th century language and quote poetry by Percy and his friend John Keats.
While people talk on one side, “silent acting” occurs on the other.
The obvious result of this approach is an over-crowded stage filled with distractions. An audience would have a challenging time knowing where to direct their eyes. Also problematic is the author’s lack of attribution. Although the copyright page states that the play ”is adapted” from the writings of his characters, hays never specifies which writings or if he has paraphrased or shortened any, with the exception of love letters Scott and Zelda read from, which hays indicates are quoted verbatim.
With its awkward staging, frequent monologues and history recitations, it’s unlikely Closer (than you think), will ever be produced as a play. But with clear attributions, it could provide insight into the lives of the Shelleys and Fitzgeralds for readers who like their history lessons in short bursts.