Publish Or Perish

REVIEW by Willard Manus

NEW YORK--ENDPAPERS, by Thomas McCormack, offers an inside look at the publishing world. The playwright spent 30 years guiding the fortunes of St. Martin's Press, one of the last independent houses in the business. Endpapers is all about the fight to keep afloat a fictionalized version of St. Martin's in an age of corporate takeovers (roughly 65% of American publishing is owned by German media giants). When the longtime CEO and executive editor of the company, Joshua Maynard (a crusty William Cain), dies, a succession battle is triggered. The main combatants are Griff (Bruce McCarty), an idealistic but inexperienced editor; Ted Giles (Tim Hopper, his more hardboiled and crafty counterpart; and Sarah Maynard (Maria Thayer), Joshua's daughter and heir to the family business. When it falls to Sarah to choose between Griff and Ted, she is subjected to intense politicking by the junior editors (who tend to favor Griff) and by John Hope (Alex Draper), an ironically-named banker whose line of credit is crucial to the firm's survival. The power struggle is convincingly dramatized by McCormack, who also shows he can write sophisticated and witty dialogue--and that he can turn what seems to be a conventional and predictable story on its head and come up with surprising but believable plot twists.

ENDPAPERS is a solid, intelligent play which offers fine naturalistic performances from its 11-person cast, a large, precisely detailed set by Neil Patel, and effective, understated direction by Pamela Berlin. One comes away with valuable insights into the ongoing war that a small publisher must wage to retain its literary values and principles in a market-driven, bottom-line environment. (At Variety Arts Theatre, 110 Third Ave. 212-239-6200)