Let me explain: In semi-celebration of Stephanie’s birthday, a group of her actor friends and I went to see one of their fellow actor friends, Liam Christopher O’Brien (they just call him “Liam,” though), in a dress rehearsal of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Geffen Playhouse.
I went in expecting to see a great cast (Len Cariou, Neil Patrick Harris, Laurie Metcalf and of course Liam) in some-play-by- one-of-those-acclaimed-old-white-guys. But I came away wondering why Death of a Salesman is performed to death whereas All My Sons languishes, the phrase conjuring up vague soap opera images.
Set in the late 1940s, the play opens with the eerie, lightning-quick image of a tree blowing down in a storm as a woman in a white nightgown watches stoically. We soon lea
All of which sounds like one of those how-families-deal-with-loss stories. Not to belittle how families deal with loss, but there are so many books, plays, movies, etc. about family dynamics—bitter parents, rebellious kids, long-kept secrets. It’s all real stuff, but I’ve gotten tired of stories that seem to have no repercussions beyond one family’s living room, however “universal” that living room may feel.
That’s why, a few months ago, I started building a book in my head that would somehow lift the family saga onto the world stage. It would be about how the nuclear becomes global, how what is little affects and is affected by what is big, how protecting your immediate family can mean destroying your human family.
But I’ve been having plot issues, as I always do. Plus, like I said, I’ve been busy being a troublemaking, gossipy, girl-crazy 11-year-old.
So I was pleasantly surprised at the tu
It would be nice if George Bush would ask himself similar questions. In the meantime, which I expect will be a long time, it’s both fortunate and unfortunate that some smart old-white-guy playwright has said what I wanted to say—with humor and plot twists and star-crossed love to boot.
I’m frequently more inspired by mediocre work than by brilliant work, because when I read Colson Whitehead or Toni Morrison or Michael Cunningham, I just want to throw up my hands—they’ve already written amazing stuff that’s just, like, about everything. About friggin’ life, you know? (This is actually how my brain starts talking—like an angry stoner. Which makes me even less confident in my own powers of articulation.)
But one thing that All My Sons doesn’t have is cats. And my novel will feature lots of cats. So maybe there’s hope yet.