This is essentially a midrash (an interpolation of a biblical story) on the story of Adam and Eve. I tagged it as a comedy although it contains one scene of rather gruesome violence. But this is meant to be a play about the beginning of civilization, and I couldn’t see doing it without including human barbarity. Produced at the Fringe, directed by my wife, the show played extremely well. The show is meant to use Motown incidental music and as such has a pretty upbeat feel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My first play. Written in 1991 for the woman I was seeing at the time, Sally Mechlem. I was dissatisfied with her level of commitment so I bombarded her with letters of all description in all sorts of different formats. I finally thought I’d write one letter in the form of a skit about us, and once I started writing I couldn’t stop.
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.