Friday afternoon. I’m sitting in the north rehearsal room on the 5th floor of Playwrights Horizons trying to hear a young woman explain why she hasn’t told her lover about how big her debt from school is.
She starts in a low mumbly voice and doesn’t get much louder. It’s a lot of “I, I, I…” and “But…” and that’s about it. She knows it was a mistake. She didn’t mean to not tell him. But the size of the debt was so big and the whole affair was so quick that before she got the nerve to say what was what, she was wearing a ring.
I know this. She knows this.
But for some reason she seems unable to figure out how to say it to the person she’s hidden it from - the person she was obligated to tell.
I look away from the pages where she’s struggling to say this very simple thing. The west side of Manhattan glitters at me like big stupid Christmas ornament.
What am I going to do? The play’s a complete mess and I’m having trouble connecting to the voices of these characters the way I had once.
Part of the problem is that I haven’t truly jettisoned the old play. The play I came in with. The play that I’m carrying in my head. Every page, no matter how blank to start with, slowly fills with it. Every moment I visualize on stage, the characters start in a new direction but almost always find their way into the comfortable rut of behavior that I carved for them long ago.
It’s some kind of monster I’ve let rule the closet too long and now I can’t get rid of.
Maybe I should start by listening to him – her lover. He’s the wronged party. He’s gotta be pretty pissed. I would be. But it turns out he’s too stunned to say much. Too angry to do more than be an ogre.
This is not going to work. Maybe it’s time to do something radical.
I get up, get in the elevator. Ten minutes later I’m watching the new James Bond chasing bad guys across the globe and thinking the unthinkable: This new Bond just might be better than Connery. I’m impressed.
I go back to Playwrights. I get out the spiral notebook. It’s time for some old-fashioned writing, writing that moves slower than hands type. Writing that gives time for characters to respond.
I close my eyes. It’s night. I see a girl next to a kiddie pool brimming with water at the center of a living room.
She looks up at a hole in the ceiling where water drips down.
She opens her mouth.