Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Endearing, aging gay actor Henry Lewse thinks he wants sex and not love, yet he is drawn to Toby, a very good aspiring young actor, who still nurses a breakup with Jessica Doyle's successful playwright brother, Caleb. Fag hag Jessica, meanwhile, can't seem to let herself fall for failed actor Frank, the one man who completely adores her. Ascerbic Times second-string theater critic Kenneth hates his life and, so his therapist suggests, takes it out in his reviews, most recently on Caleb's most recent play. Which brings us to the pistol and Caleb's mother. From Henry to Jessica to her lovable, slightly off-kilter mother, who has (fortunately) very bad aim, Bram gives us characters to love for their humanity and vulnerability from the outset of a sweetly funny and engaging novel that makes the contemporary New York theater scene spring to life in an imaginative unfolding of the interrelationships of fascinating, often eccentric, always less-than-perfect people being themselves. --Paula Luedtke Copyright 2003 Booklist