With The Stager, Susan Coll has created a funny, crisp, self-aware farce that skewers Big Ambition, Big Pharma, and Big Housing Stock alike with the help of a literal-minded ten-year-old (Elsa), a rabbit who may or may not speak (Dominique), and a wry sense of English major humor and outsider wit.
Elsa’s father Lars, a former tennis star, is medicated to the point of daily hallucinations while his wife, Bella, manages their enormous house, her enormous career, and (marginally) their ten-year-old. Lars and Bella are in London looking for a new home while a stager readies their DC-area mega-home for sale. The stager, Eve, just happens to have a past with Bella that includes, but is not limited to, an Indonesian earthquake.
Bella tries to manage Lars’ needs and medications (as well as his sudden longing for “light” that takes the form of a DIY skylight in their new London digs) while dealing with a new job in the UK and ten kinds of chaos at home (Dominique goes missing; Elsa makes inappropriate friends with the hippies squatting in the recession-casualty development around the block). Meanwhile, Eve rearranges the DC house’s contents, gets to know Elsa, and paints the front door “buy me” red just in time for the impending Saturday open house; she also, as part of a tea party with Elsa, drinks a lot of “compost tea” courtesy of the aforementioned hippies. Lars finds that Bella, in the midst of all this, still has time for a long-standing affair with an obnoxious poet and flees London, drinking gin and popping pills all the way across the Atlantic.
Lars returns to DC late Friday night but doesn’t recognize his own home; in drug-addled terror, he runs off to the disastrous hippie development and discovers Dominique is really a thinking man’s sort of rabbit. Bella and Eve unite to find Lars; Dominique gets the last word—so apparently, he DOES talk!
The Stager is a thinking person’s sort of farce, told from the point of view of each character in rotating chapters that keep the wheels-within-wheels plot turning and the reader either smiling or laughing out loud: A Rabbit, Home Run for the 21st century ‘burbs.
Photo, top right, by Mr. Rex, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Mel Malmberg is currently working on her first book of fiction; a novel about young Will Shakespeare.
Find Mel on Twitter at TheDailyBard@365shakespeare.