ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Book Review
Summer House with Swimming Pool
By Elyse Sommer
The way Marc Schlosser runs his family practice is not just reprehensible but at times lacks credibility (no indications of usual procedures like electrocardiagrams and blood tests that surely must be as common in the Netherlands as they are in the US).
Schlosser's disdainful ruminations about his patients and lots of other aspects of life which punctuate the plot can be pretty off putting. But Koch's acerbic wit will nevertheless keep you reading. And while this is not a theater book, Koch's misanthropic narrator has plenty to say about the theater and the plot revolves around the personal relationship between the doctor's family and that of Ralph Maier a client who's a successful stage actor. Plot complications galore surface when the doctor, his wife and twelve and fourteen-year-old daughters visit that summer house with pool rented by the actor and his family.
The friendship with the Maiers, begins when Marc and wife attend an opening of Ralph's performance as Richard II. For Marc such occasions since she rarely accompanies him. However, she seems to be a fan of Maier's and likes Shakespeare (well, doesn't everyone?)
Marc's comments about why he hates the social aspects of having a practice comprised of creative types are deliciously outrageous. His least favorite of such obligations is having to attend a play opening, even by a stellar actor in one of Shakespeare's best plays.
He explains that when a patient who's an author sends a book "you can lie and say you're only halfway through it, that you don't want to express an opinion without finishing it first." He detests both movie and stage openings but finds it easier to let his mind wander during the former. As he explains "At a play you're more aware of actually being there. Of being there and of the passing of time. Of your Watch." He adds that he actually bought himself a watch with a luminous dial especially for opening night.
Ruminations on playgoing as a torturous experience contiinue in this hilarously sour vein. Time, as Marc sees it doesn't stand still in a play but "coagulates" and "you observe the actors and actresses, their movements, you listen to the lines leaving their mouths, and it's as though you're stirring some subtance that gets thicker and thicker all the time. At a certain point the spoon stops moving altogether. It remains standing upright in the substance." That's when the good (well, not really good) doctor begins glancing at his watch.
Not that he isn't polite about. Since he no more than anyone wants to be caught looking at his watch and so he does so surreptitiously. But being able to check the time does not make it pass any faster for "real time and stage time are two very different entities" and, at least for him, that stage time tends to move at an agonizingly slow pace.
Bored and anxious as Dr. Marc is, he finds it more difficult to escape from a play than a movie premiere. The above mentioned Richard II is probably a lot better than some plays he's suffered through, the very worst being the ones based on improvisations. Though these have the plus of generally being shorter than "regular" scripts, Marc sees that as being "like the wind-chill factor" that sometimes "feels a lot colder or hotter than the thermometer says."
Marc's observations on the theater are of course just some of the many such detours his mind takes as the the plot thickens in what is essentially a psychological crime story. The high profile actor dies (this is no spoiler, as this is announced in the first chapter). Like him, you might prefer reading a book about Shakespeare rather than a thriller on your deathbed. Nonetheless, Summer House With Swimming Pool is an absorbing page turner.