Monday, January 31, 2005

Brooklyn Boy

Sunday night, Smartmom went to see "Brooklyn Boy," a play by Donald Marguiles that's in previews at the Biltmore Theater.

Big Smile, a good friend and avid reader of this blog, is the understudy for two of the female roles. That means she's in the theater for every show and knows both parts backwards and forwards, ready to go on anytime.

It also means she can get house seats. Last week during the blizzard, she called with seats and Hepcat went. This week, she had two more and Smartmom went with Groovy Aunt.

In this funny/sad play, Adam Arkin, the son of the great Alan Arkin, plays a novelist who has finally hit the big time. He has a bestselling book, #11 on the New York Times Bestseller list, about growing up in Brooklyns, soon be made into a major motion picture. In the midst of all this, he goes to visit his dying father in a Brooklyn hospital; forced to return to the borough of childhood, a place he has spent his whole life trying to escape from.

Hepcat loved the play and urged Smartmom to go see it. He said that it would "resonate" with Smartmom on five or six different levels. He wouldn't say what they were. "You'll figure it out," he said.

Smartmom felt like she was playing a game. She felt compelled to figure out the ways that Hepcat thought the play would resonate with her. The question really was: what struck Hepcat as issues that were near and dear to Smartmom's life? On your mark, get set, GO...

Actually, the play's themes did resonate with Smartmom in more than six ways:

1. Brooklyn
2. Brooklyn Jews
3. Judaism
4. Novel writing
5. Writing from life
5. Hollywood
6 Marital angst

But there was more...

7. Parent/child relationships
8. Rivalries between old friends
9. Holding onto/letting go of the past

Smartmom wondered which were the five or six that Hepcat had identified and why. Was there a secret message from Hepcat to Smartmom in all this? It all felt deeply coded. And fun in a strange way.

Suffice it to say, the play is a winner, Adam Arkin is convincingly depressive and deep as the writer. His attempts to gain approval from his hard-to-please dad are funny and heart wrenching.

Later, Arkin meets an old friend in the hospital cafeteria; their lives are completely different now. The friend, an Orthodox Jew with four children, now owns his father's deli. He asks Arkin, "How did you know to aspire to something better? How did you know?"

Unbeknownst to his friend, Arkin's life is a mess. His wife, a less succesful writer, is divorcing him and we see their final key exchange in the very next scene. "This is what the end looks like," she says to him sadly.

The second act includes an uproarious scene in the office of the manic producer who is producing his movie. Seconds after praising the script he has just completed she asks: "But does it need to be so Jewish?"

If the play sounds like stuff you've seen before it is. But because it is so well-written and smart, it fits together in a ha ha funny / sad- enough-to make-you-cry kind of way. Smartmom found herself feeling a great deal for Arkin's character, as well as the father and the friend.

When she got home last night, Smartmom told Hepcat that she the play resonated with her on a lot of levels. "I knew it would," he said. She wanted to ask for his six but she decided to leave it at that. Sometimes you have to just let things be Smartmom has learned.

Smartmom is crossing her fingers that Polly Draper or Mimi Lieber get sick or go on vacation so that Big Smile can take a whack at the role of the wife or the producer. Smartmom will be standing by to get the word: "Polly is sick, I'm going to be in the show..."

And Smartmom will subway into Manhattan to see Big Smile become the character she's been waiting to play. It's a killer role and Big Smile will be fabulous, probably better than the star. Smartmom can't wait.


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