Aquarius 25° (February 14)
A client at eight and one at ten and then I speak with the folks at American Rep. (I wrote this entire entry already once, mainly yesterday, but my word documents quit on me and I lost everything. So here I am again doing it all over again. So right we had two clients this morning. And then we squiggled our way out of town, after S’s appointment in Cambridge where I sort of hovered and waited. Our car tire pressure light went on as we headed to the home town and when we arrived others were in quite a state and you could cut the tension with a knife. We headed back out and got tires checked and picked up some snacks and some extra wine for the weekend. We ended up going back out to get some pad thai and spring rolls (i had had spring rolls the day before too and I would have them again the next day, along with somebody else’s leftover pad thai. So much for my no carb diet. Who cares. We were going to get up early as they were heading off at five a.m. I woke around four and got dressed and it was solemn and still tense, but nothing as weird as it would get once this day got underway. I decided to write some dramaturgical stuff I had to do; and it went something like this:
I know you waited a long time for me to read this and I’m afraid you’re not going to like what I have to say. And much of what I’ll lay out here will sound negative to your ears—and I jotted notes down as I read before I knew exactly where it was going so it might seem nit picky en route to my realizing this needs a total re-do. However I do not think all hope is lost on this but it would require that total re-write from a completely different perspective in order for this to work. Please note I haven’t listened yet to any of the music but I will do that next….so here in gut reactions as I read, sometimes scrolling back up to add comments (like anachronisms) to various sections:
I think the story has no tension and no reveal. There are no surprises or any kinds of twists and turns. The use of the therapist seems an easy device for getting the story about this man with supposed social anxiety not being able to show his face for 30 years. And it’s the same day the therapist dumps him but he suddenly can interact with people given the shock?
I’m getting a modern day My Man Godfried vibe from this; and I see you are basing this on a book from 1908s—seems it will be a Morality Tale— but with Henry having been himself a very outgoing character who goes clubbing and knows a ton of people, how do we justify Peter taking on his identity in others eyes? Surely there are many many people in the world who know Peter is not Henry.By same token: Why does the waiter say “your usual table?” if Peter is not really Henry?
How to we justify Peter/Henry being a shy character to Alice when Henry himself has already been bold and naughty via text, email, online etc?
I get the sense this piece was originally written twenty years ago? References like The Honeymooners might very well go over the head of anybody younger than Gen X. Same with Howdy Doody and to a certain extent Pat Benatar. But most of all…if Peter painted Nixon why did he do so in the 80s (even the Dylan reference is older than that) and why would that have made an impact. If he had painted him during Watergate it might have resonated but that would make him in his twenties in the seventies meaning he’d now be 70 something. But even if he painted it in the eighties he’d be 60s or nigh on. Is this meant to be a show where the protagonists are 60 years old?
Also, with the speed of gentrification over the last 15 years, the notion of living in Queens is no longer quaint as opposed to living in Manhattan because literally nobody can truly afford to live in Manhattan unless they are a millionaire like Peter. Moving to Queens barely worked when they made film Julie/Julia. So maybe be more specific about some area of Queens which is still yet to be gentrified….like literally at the airport or something.Other clues that this is outdated. The kale joke has been done for the last decade—everybody eats kale now and happily, so moot point.
The most important thing is that with with DNA testing it would prove whether or not he was Farrell. So the nipples thing doesn’t work at all. In order to fix all anachronisms, you’d have to set the play in the 80s or maybe 90s. Before DNA.
The defense attorney seems not to have met Peter before the trial?
Small thing: the word segue alone IS pronounced seg-way. It isn’t segue way.
Also the fact is that everyone now meets their future partners online. So the conceit of it being weird or suggestive of poor character on Alice’s part is very outdated.
It’s also not enough explanation to say he was “high or drunk or something” to justify Henry sending Alice Peter’s picture.
The court scene borders on bad sit-com (sorry).
Okay so that was everything bad/wrong I had to say about the piece. Now I have a suggestion as to how to re-write and make this story possibly work:
What if the story were written from a different perspective. That it opens in Queens with this married couple who have been living or even just subsisting on the selling of these amazing paintings to neighborhood folk and the whole neighborhood in which they live is filled with joy and color created by everyone everywhere in the hood happily buying paintings from “Henry” for years and years, turning the neighborhood into something of a fantasy world of his own design (would make for gorgeous sets as well).
Then there is a sort of mysterious “spy” that shows up taking notes like the guy in Willy Wonka spying on all the kids with their golden tickets….or the company spy noticing all the changes that Lily, Jane and Dolly are making in the montage of Nine to Five. And then you have the Mr. Oxford character (who sent the spy) who has for years suspected that Peter isn’t really dead making a play for exposing this guy out in some remote corner of Queens doing what he’s doing.
You could still explore all the themes (which I sense are near and dear to your heart) about social anxiety and what is art and what is it worth and all that but the audience doesn’t really know whether or not it is Peter or Henry. Maybe you won’t even know if it’s Peter or Henry. And maybe it is never quite revealed or the audience can leave the theater split-opinioned. As in Sweeney Todd some the story can be told in large part in Flashback. And again if there is a court scene or some other setting where reckoning occurs you still have the DNA problem. So why not set it in the 90s (or before whenever DNA was conclusive). The point is that I think you should work from the middle out, going back to the past and forward to the future. I think finding this couple living a sort of idyllic life (or in a fools paradise) making beauty and affecting their world in this positive way, proliferating art…a paradise that is then invaded by the snakey Mr. Oxford would make for a more magical (and real-magical) piece. The linear thing is not working. The audience is never suprised because they know. And then it just unfolds and so what’s the point. I just think that starting from the innocent place (with some kind of past subterfuge lurking as well as some kind of boom threatening to be lowered) makes for a more tense and twisty plot line. You might end up writing a few endings and then deciding…is this Henry? is this Peter? does it matter? I don’t know but I think more existential questions can be posed that may or may not have answers. And that’s a good thing because you want audience to leave thinking and especially feeling.
To view the original Sabian Symbol themed 2015 Blague corresponding to this day: Flashback! The degree of the Sabian Symbol may be higher than the one listed here as the symbols cluminate in the next degree. There are 360 degrees spread over 365 days.
Typos happen—I don’t have time or an intern to edit.*
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