On the surface Tom has the kind of problems many writers might wish they had. He has a nice-sized fan base, critical acclaim and a wife so supportive of his talent that she volunteers to pay all the bills so he can spend his days typing. Tom (Kyle Knauf) seems to have the perfect life, but his muse, Norman (Jake Suffian) thinks otherwise. Norman haunts Tom incessantly, voicing all the worries, concerns and crippling doubts that Tom tries to suppress. Timothy Nolan’s play, Not Dark Yet, has more complexities than its blurb and comical portrayal of a cross-dressing muse would have you believe. Like its main character, Tom, the real story lies beneath the surface.
Tom’s doting wife Anne (Elizabeth Bell) is also his pushy publicist and even something of a fiction writer groupie. She wants her husband to be the Next Big Thing – the guy on everyone’s front page who goes on talk shows impressing the world with his literary soul. The central question in the story is whether Tom wants that as well. He is plagued by Norman, who represents his inner torments and deepest fears - the biggest one being that his wife may only love him for his talent.
Knauf plays Tom with a deep, thoughtful center, as someone who likes writing about the truth, but not facing it. Bell is also very convincing as a woman falling out of love with her husband without officially saying so. Instead, Tom tries to pretend they’re both on the same page while Anne reacts coldly to his overtures, trying to shame him back to the keyboard.
Nolan has crafted a story without a clear hero and no obvious answers. He also offers an interesting perspective on writing, particularly in regards to people like Tom who enjoy doing it but not for a career.
The play ends on an open-ended note, though it does not bode well for Tom that Anne recoils at his declaration, “I love you more than words can say.” Without the words you wonder how long Tom will be able to retain that love.
Not Dark Yet is part of the 2008 New York International Fringe Festival.