A woman brings her fiancee home to meet her parents and secrets are revealed. Based on an old Irish folksong, it’s either a light drama or a dark comedy. But it plays extremely well and taught me something when I first produced it. The play has a pretty important reveal (which is the raison d’etre for writing the piece) and I tried to hide that it was coming in the dialogue but I noticed that some people in the audience figured it out before the play got there. It didn’t matter. They enjoyed the “moment” as much as those who were totally surprised.
Diminished Capacity comes from my years as a court reporter watching criminal cases. There is a tremendous pressure on defendants to cooperate with the prosecutors and testify against their friends at a trial. While I understand the need for that, I think it’s just another layer of humiliation and social disintegration that the poor (who are mostly black and Hispanic) have to deal with. While the play is pretty comedic in tone, eventually the fate of Hector (the defendant who is being pressured, and whom we never see on stage) comes into sharper focus. Comedy/drama, 10 actors. Diminished Capacity has never been produced.
A young woman visits her grandmother, and in alternating flashback scenes we see their difficult relationship as the grandmother paints a portrait of her granddaughter. Certainly a challenge to produce. The young actor must play guitar and sing and even dance a little. The older actor must speak some Yiddish and sing a Yiddish song (Dona Dona, but in the original Yiddish). There are several quick set and costume changes as well. The play loosely borrows from when I, as a teenager, was sitting for a portrait that my grandfather painted.
Goldensbridge is a left wing community in Westchester where my parents lived, and I called home, for 30+ years. This autobiographical play tracks my parents’ story over most of their lives, and mine in my first year at GB in 1963. Because the play jumps around from location to location and decade to decade it probably would work better as a movie. It is rich in nostalgia for the Jewish American Left, but at its heart is a story about aging and coming of age.
In 1997 my father suffered a stroke that so diminished him that his experience of life was just a fraction of what it had been before. Six weeks later his first grandchild, Kobe, was born, and his second grandchild, Kobe’s twin brother Sam, was stillborn. I didn’t know how to manage the flood of images, thoughts, feelings and phrases that this confluence of events brought to my mind. Eventually I knew I had to write, and this play happened. My most intensely personal play, it was the first of my plays to win a national playwriting contest and get a production. The cast includes (under different names) myself, my wife, my father, his spirit and Kobe and Sam (although I eventually changed his gender so I could channel my daughter, Jennie, into the character). Plenty of laughs, and some tears. The six characters never leave the stage and the play is moved along by the lighting. My blurb for the show: If you’ve ever been a parent, or ever had a parent, you will be at home in the world of this play. My best full length, and maybe my best writing.
Jim’s Room tells the story of Maddie and Beau, who meet, fall in love, but find themselves unable to consummate their relationship. The play deals with my own notion of reincarnation, something I don’t believe in but think is a very comforting metaphor and literary device. When my daughter (whose middle name is Madeleine) was born, I toyed with the fantasy that she was the reincarnation of her stillborn brother Sam, and that gave rise to the writing of this play. Comedy/Drama, full length, 8 characters. Jim’s Room has never been produced.
Zach is visited by his ex-girlfriend, Betsy, and the two of them go through a photo album and revisit episodes from their past leading to her leaving him. The play is based on what I thought Jackson Browne’s Fountain of Sorrow was about. But after writing the play and doing some idle surfing, I found out I had it all wrong: Fountain of Sorrow is not about his ex-wife but about Joni Mitchell. But the play is very much about an ex of mine, Rosalind (for whom my song Letting Go was written), although the end of our relationship was quite different from the end of Zack and Betsy’s. The play uses projections of the photographs.
A “midrash” based on the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom. The play clings to the points of the biblical narrative but tries to “connect the dots” in a different way and give it a contemporary relevance. This play was inspired by my association with a women’s studies group that existed for a short while at the local synagogue. I was the only man there. It was like going to a Mensa meeting, these folks were so smart. The purpose of the group was try to find better ways to understand the few women who are mentioned in the Bible and the discussion about Lot’s Wife (who is never mentioned by name) led me to write this play. Dedicated to Karen Miller, one of the members of the group, whose personal battle with illness inspired us all.
This play has never been produced.
A woman stumbles into an ice cream store and flashes back to a similar store some 35 years before, when she encountered a mysterious and damaged Vietnam vet. Only she comes away from the flashback with new knowledge that changes her life. Two middle aged women, one 13 year old girl and a 40 year old man. Produced in a couple of venues by me and once in Sisters, Oregon. Written for a remarkable young local actor, Maddy Sledge.missing
My Brother’s Keeper tells the story of Danny, a black kid arrested on a drug deal, and his court-appointed lawyer, Teddy (a woman). Danny is under considerable pressure to cooperate with the authorities, including from his own lawyer, but he resists. This play channels some experiences I had on my day job as a court reporter. My concern when I wrote it, and now, is whether black actors would find the black characters I wrote demeaning. The actors who did the show for me originally didn’t, and one of them staged the play at her own theater in Mt. Vernon.
Long before I had ever written my first play, this was the story I wanted to write. I got the idea for it from an early 20th Century novella by P.D. Ouspensky, The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin. The novella isn’t very good and I couldn’t really use much in it except for the central concept which I think is wonderful. A man is given a chance to revisit and change the big mistakes in his life. I never feel this is finished (which is at once both ironic and fitting). At a certain point I decided to put some songs in it. Two are written and two are not. The play channels two women in my life, Susie Sherman and Sally Mecklem, but only in broad outlines. Never produced. I’ve never even had a reading of this play. In fact, I don’t think anyone has ever read it….not sure about that. I list this as a seven actor play assuming that the actor playing Stevie at age 20 will also play her at age 10.
Alex visits her estranged brother Toby after the death of their mother, and he tries to get her to remember the TV show they had starred in as kids, and to convince her that it wasn’t a show, that it really happened to them. The story first occurred to me when I was watching Dragon Tales on PBS sometime around 2000 but it was another dozen or so years before I attempted to write the play.
Franklyn meets Jesse at a concert at which he resuscitated a member of the audience. They hit it off until they learn that they come from very different worlds. They try to make it work until…
After not writing a play for ten years, for some inexplicable reason (although I have postulated quite a few quasi-explicable ones) I met a couple of actors who blew me away and I decided I wanted to write for them. This is the first of three two-character plays that followed.
When I interact with people, I always try to read them, to understand them and do a lot of questioning. Can’t do that with a therapist so I have to fill in the blanks. And the one thing that I wonder about the most is how guilty they might feel if they fail their patients; or worse yet, if one of their patients acts on something the therapist says with a bad result and, in the case of this play, collateral damage. A man, whose wife has apparently just left him, walks into her therapists office and asks to take her session, but what he really wants is to understand why she left him. The show has had a few productions and eventually I was able to get a tight script. This latest version seems to work well.
An elderly woman, unresponsive in advanced dementia with complications, relives some warm memories of her children as the two of them discuss whether or not to pull the plug. When my own mother drifted off into this state, I would visit her and wonder what was going on in her mind. Written originally for the children to be brother and sister but changed to sisters because, let’s face it, there are way more women actors around than men.
When my wife was in cantorial school, she had to do a semester of chaplaincy rounds at a local hospital. One patient she visited said he was an atheist, she asked him what God was it that he didn’t believe in, and they had a long chat. That story inspired this play. The play has a couple of nice perks. One, it was a show that Robin and I could perform (which we did); and second, I could do the whole play lying in a hospital bed, which relieved me of having to limp around stage on my cane, which I (and I suspect the audience) find really distracting. This is a pretty Jewish play which helped it win a national playwriting contest geared toward Jewish plays. In fact, the people who ran the contest, part of a theater outside Cleveland, liked the show so much they staged a really lovely production of it, the only time in the history of the contest that they actually did a production of a winning show. The story is really schmaltzy, but I think the dialogue is up there with the best I’ve ever written, smart and funny (with a lot of allusions to classic cinema, the thing that binds the two main characters). I’m not sure that listening to two people talk about this and that makes for the most exciting evening of theater, but when I start cashing in on everything I set up in the first act, and when the father finally appears, I think the play works really well.
A 13 year old girl takes her parents to a hilltop to view a comet, but really to try to salvage their faltering marriage. I knew a family who was going through something similar to this, and so I wrote the play for them (since they all acted) but we never had the chance to do it.