Monday, December 04, 2017

Dream Crushers of the theater & TALLEY'S FOLLY

I was pleased to be able to get in another kick at TALLEY'S FOLLY the beloved stalker/bully-as-hero "romantic" comedy that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980.

The theme of this past Saturday's NYCPlaywrights weekly email - you can read it here - was based on allegations against playwright Israel Horowitz and women not being believed and the continuing problem that results when men still dominate everything.

I sometimes wonder if Arthur Miller is to blame for the obnoxious attitudinizing of male playwrights. After all, he was a playwright and he married Marilyn Monroe. Male playwrights who have any level of success must ask themselves: "where's my Marilyn Monroe?" and if she doesn't show up they content themselves by harassing pretty young women in the mistaken belief that just being a playwright will more than compensate for whatever aesthetic and age gaps exist between themselves and their prey.

One of the women harassed by Horowitz and quoted in the NYTimes article about the Horowitz allegations described perfectly the results of the predations of creepy older men on young women starting out their careers:
“I heard a word used recently about people like this — they’re dream crushers,” Ms. Dann said. “(Horowitz) took this thing that was such a beautiful thing, this young hope, this sense of promise, and he just ruined it.”
The Times article includes a trackback to an article from the 1990s when allegations against Horowitz were first made. The gas lighting and smearing of women is on full perfect display:
Weiner suggests that the women’s dissatisfaction with the business director’s possible dismissal may be behind allegations of sexual abuse. He said that the business director was “very emotional about everything” and that the women he spoke to were also “tightly wound, you know what I mean.” He insists they had a chance during their conversations in the fall to tell him if they “were put in fear” by Horovitz’s behavior. He says that “one of the gals” told him about “French kissing,” but nothing more serious than that.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Horowitz wrote a play, OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES with this plot as described in Charles Isherwood's 2016 review:
A more appropriate title for “Out of the Mouths of Babes,” a new play by Israel Horovitz that opened on Sunday at the Cherry Lane Theater, might be “Dead Man’s Harem.” In this improbable and eventually even fantastical comedy, enlivened by an excellent cast including Judith Ivey and Estelle Parsons, four women who have all been involved with the same man gather to mourn him in his Paris apartment. 
First on the scene are Evelyn (Ms. Parsons) and Evvie (Ms. Ivey), who exchange polite conversation that becomes somewhat less polite when Evelyn learns that Evvie used to be called Snookie — a nickname bestowed by the man they both loved (whose name is never mentioned). It was Snookie who broke up Evelyn’s marriage to the man.
The portrait that emerges of this lifelong womanizer is not a very appealing one. He met all the women in his life, it appears — and there were many, including his first wife, the original Snookie, who killed herself after Evelyn came along — when they were students attending his literature classes at the Sorbonne. Serial predator, one might call him today. Plus: He refused to do dishes.
But apparently, and we must take it on faith, he was irresistible, at least to the young women dazzled by his intellect and sophistication...
Although he hasn't been accused of sexual harassment, as far as I know, this belief that you can treat young women disrespectfully was on display when right-wing misogynist asshole Jonathan Reynolds wrote about his interactions with his cast:
Now, what does this have to do with GIRLS IN TROUBLE, my play currently in rehearsal at The Flea which consumes about 23 1/2 of my 24-hour day? Just this: we have a vegan in the cast, and I am trying to persuade her of the error of her ways. I've instructed her to stand upside down and then told her she could only have meat and dairy products for a week with the occasional snack of fish just to show her the borderline fascistic rigors of the flip side. She's thinking about it. I didn't have the spirit to bring her the slow-roasted pork, fearing charges of unfair competition: surely she would buckle at the knees and succmb, because there is no denying the pork shoulder. Besides, we need her in the first and third acts, not as a giddy, overfed pig convert too pleasured to make her entrance.
No doubt he thought the actor in question told him she would think about eating meat because his intellect and sophistication were so compelling, not that she was hoping that her association with his play would help her career and she didn't want to risk it all by actually telling the creep what she really thought of him. Reynolds has since removed his post from his blog, possibly after he read my post about it, which he referenced on his blog although the reference link no longer works.

But back to TALLEY'S FOLLY. I have been conducting a one-woman war on that play for seven years now. I'm obviously not winning since the play is still  being produced. But I did include an excerpt from the play in the NYCPlaywrights email, which has a readership of 2500+ (unlike this blog.)

The excerpt is when Sally tries to get away from Matt and he stops her while calling her crazy.

Maybe once it's pointed out to theater people that the tactics used by reviled harassers are the same as those used by the "hero" of TALLEY'S FOLLY they will finally wise up about this noxious play.
You're not getting away from me.
Get out of here!
Do you realize what you said? Did you hear yourself?
     (Yelling toward the door.)
Buddy! Cliffy! Here he is. Matt Friedman is down here!

(Her last words are muffled by Matt's hand as he grabs her and holds her fast. She tries to speak over his lines.)
    (Grabbing her.)
Vilde chaya! you are a crazy woman! We could both be shot with that gun. People do not scream and yell and kick. 
    (She stops struggling.) 
People are blessed with the beautiful gift of reason and communication. 
     (He starts to release her.)

    (Grabbing her again.)
How can such a thing happen? When they passed out logic everybody in the Ozarks went on a marshmallow roast. You are rational now?

(He releases her. She moves away. Matt stands where he can block her exit.)

Matt stands where he can block her exit. Where have I heard that before?
 The most specific allegation dates to the Aspen Comedy Festival, where the comedian reportedly exposed himself to a female comedy duo in his hotel room and blocked the door when they tried to escape. 
But Matt doesn't just strong-arm Sally - he makes sure to tell her that by resisting him she is crazy:
Vilde chaya! you are a crazy woman! We could both be shot with that gun. People do not scream and yell and kick. 
    (She stops struggling.)  
People are blessed with the beautiful gift of reason and communication. 
And I believe the whole thing is played for laughs. The entire attitude is: that crazy bitch doesn't know what she really wants. But this manly man will sort it out for her. And mind you, this isn't even his primary sin  - that would be him stalking Sally for a year after she told him to go away.

This is a celebrated, beloved, prize-winning play that is still frequently produced. And people wonder why men in the theater think they have the green-light to impose themselves on women. Because our beloved plays tell them they should, and it's hysterically funny and bitches are crazy and it's what she really wanted all along, she just didn't know it.

And that's why the theater is full of dream crushers.