According to Henry David Thoreau, most men (by which he meant women, too) lead lives of quiet desperation. Why, then, does quiet desperation do so poorly at the box office?
West of Boston
After all, people go to baseball movies because they like baseball–same with boxing. People go to scary movies because they get a kick out of being frightened. Women like to go to romantic movies–and drag their husbands/boyfriends along with them–in the hope that the weight and volume of romance in their lives will be thereby increased. Shouldn’t the legions of quietly desperate–or desperately quiet–people be eager to see their lives reflected in the mirror of art?
Apparently not. With desperation, it’s bring on da noise of a violent dramatic arc, bring on da funk of depression. Drama of the desperate kind generally erupts by the third act in screaming, shouting, murder and mayhem–unlike life itself. Eugene O’Neill is a possible exception to this rule, but his plays go on forever and are notoriously talky and unwieldy–and that’s their virtue. It is an ambitious director who tries to stage one, much less film one.
O’Neill: Need a friend? Get a dog.
Into this breach allow me to toss West of Boston, paired one-act plays–The 5:05 and Welcome to Endive–about everyday life as I know it–commuting to work on a train, dining out on weekends. They have been performed in New York and Boston, but never together, and have just been published, with illustrations by Sage Stossel, a cartoonist I’ve worked with before. As always, going out of my way to entertain the reader.
Getting a play published is, as a dramatic agent once told me to my surprise, counter-intuitively not a good thing. It means the play is available for performance by anyone, as opposed to a producer who in exchange for exclusive rights will back it with his or her capital and that raised from investors. So sending the two plays in West of Boston to the dramatic publisher that has published two prior collections of my plays means I’m giving up on a big production–since no one’s going to back a work that could open across the street at the same time–and resigning myself to a lot of little ones.
Community theatre groups of the world–make me an offer!
George S. Kaufman appearing in “Unsolved Mysteries of Croquet”
I promise you–heeding the words of George S. Kaufman, the playwright who said “Satire is what closes on Saturday night”–I tried to be earnest, but with a light touch nonetheless. Still, no Broadway producer button-holed me on the way out of the theatre in New York when Endive was performed there to thrust a check, a contract and a pen in my hands.
Leaving me as I was before, living a life of quiet desperation.