Joan Dellamond has the last word in The Babylon Line and thus it feels fitting that she be the subject of my final blog post for the production. As brilliantly portrayed by Elizabeth Reaser, Joan enters the adult-ed writing classroom haltingly and exits confidently, as a professional writer who cites Joyce (“silence cunning exile”) without hesitation. She begins as the most sheltered character, having retreated to her Levittown house for years, and ends in many ways as the most well-traveled: her last name is, after all, “del-la-mond” – roughly, “of the world.”

Without a publicly acknowledged history in late-1960s Levittown, Joan appears to have little background intellectually as well. Slowly, however, it becomes obvious that she has used her years of self-imposed privacy to read. She suggests to Aaron, the writing-class instructor, that he may be experiencing a creative block because he’s an atheist. He says, “Why should that block me?” Joan replies, “Because there’s no Fate, no mystery; perversities are merely…perverse not part of some-as-yet-unrevealed pattern. All that’s left are biology and social arrangements and they’re better described by other disciplines.” This is not a woman who has been spending her nights watching “Bonanza” and “Bewitched.”

Maddie Corman, who plays Anna, one of the more conventional housewives in the class, told me that “Joan is both threatening and exciting.” She is threatening because “she is an attractive woman without children who does not bend to the middle-class norms of Levittown. She is exciting for many of the same reasons. If someone could live among the housewives for 18 years and not conform, perhaps there is hope for change for all of them.”

Corman as well as Julie Halston and Randy Graff, who portray the other adult-ed wives, Midge and Frieda, all told me that Joan is as much a teacher to them as is Aaron, the class’s nominal instructor. “She’s provocative,” Halston said. “Anyone can be merely provocative, but Joan is successfully provocative – she forces her classmates to re-consider their own choices.”

“My character may not like Joan,” Graff said, “because she’s a pretty girl, and pretty girls like Joan deflect attention from the intelligent, well-organized girls like Frieda. But Joan forces Frieda out of her comfort zone.”

Josh Radnor, who portrays Aaron, told me that Joan is luckier than Aaron is. “It’s the late 1960s, and as an intelligent woman who has been living her life unconventionally she is freer to shed her persona entirely and emerge as something else. Aaron is stuck in old ideas about masculinity and takes longer to evolve. But Joan helps him change.”

Late in the play, Aaron acknowledges Joan’s encounter with a young man, Todd, and encapsulates the arc of Joan’s character. “In her numb years, she read incessantly and wrote covertly. She was talented. She was a gifted autodidact. By the time Todd came to her, she could teach. She was a REAL teacher.”

Just as Anna, Midge, and Frieda – or their interpreters – said.

Brendan Lemon is the editor of