The conversation I was eavesdropping on at the coffee shop earlier was actually about theater and playwriting. The man describing how his father and uncle were treated with Haldol was listening to a friend read from a play he’s writing. He told his story to reassure the friend that a detail in his play was true to life. The first man was actually a quite cheerful fellow, somewhere in his late forties or early fifties, with a broad smile and a nose like W.C. Fields minus the redness and the booze-broken capillaries. The second man, the playwright, was in his seventies, thin and wiry, in an olive green work shirt and jeans. He had a lean, square, well-weathered face and a full head of iron gray hair with streaks of white. He read from printed pages, the letters large enough for me to make out as separate objects, from twenty feet across the room. Before he finished, he interrupted himself to start talking about a play he was involved with recently. Apparently he acts in and produces his own plays, but he doesn’t direct them, which is significant because…
“I’m waiting for a wave of adulation to come my way. I’m holding this play together. Everybody says. I held the play together, and the play was well-written so everybody listened.”
The problem, the reason he needed to hold it together by himself, was the leading lady.
“She comes out, fucking soap opera actress delivery. Nineteen years old. No curiosity. No understanding. She’s nineteen and she’s playing a woman of thirty.”
“Why didn’t you fire her?” the first man asks.
“I couldn’t,” the playwright says. In his disgust, he forgets about reading his play. Her folds the pages in half lengthwise and sticks them in the back pocket of his jeans. “I couldn’t. She’s the director’s daughter.”