In Brooklyn Boy, the new play by Donald Margulies opening at Broadway's Biltmore Theatre Feb. 3, the accumulation of years of experience have caught up to the middle-aged Weiss, played by Adam Arkin. You imagine he's either got another great book in him or that he's reached his peak.
As in his earlier play, Sight Unseen, Margulies suggests the present malaise is linked to the past. In the seriocomic play, Weiss addresses a lot in a little time: his Brooklyn upbringing, his parents, his failed-writer ex-wife, his religion and his own creativity.
Whether or not Weiss' novel is based on his own life is one of the questions that fuels the play, and Margulies has been asked over and over in recent interviews if the play is based on his own life. Jewish Brooklynite Weiss has been embraced by critics and so has Jewish Brooklynite Margulies, a Pulitzer Prize winner for Dinner With Friends.
Is Margulies the inspiration for Weiss?
"My response is similar to Eric Weiss' response, which is, 'Why is that so important?'," Margulies told Playbill.com. "It would be disingenuous for me to suggest that I have no relationship to this man, this character. At the same time, what is dramatized is not a recreation of scenes from my life. The themes certainly resonate with me, and certain elements, but the particulars of it just are not congruent with my life and my experience." Previews for the Broadway run of the world premiere production by Manhattan Theatre Club and South Coast Repertory began Jan. 13.
The new play is made up of six scenes that cover only a few days: Eric meets his dying father (Allan Miller) in a Brooklyn hospital (Maimonides) as his book his No. 11 on the bestseller list; Eric meets an old friend (Ayre Gross) from the neighborhood in the cafeteria of the hospital, where questions of abandonment and ambition are raised; Eric meets his unsuccessful (probably gentile) writer-wife (Polly Draper) at the apartment they once shared to finalize their divorce; Eric invites a nubile wannabe writer (Ari Graynor) he met at a book signing to his hotel room in L.A., where he has come to meet with a Hollywood studio to discuss the movie version of "Brooklyn Boy"; Eric meets a crass producer (Mimi Lieber) and young actor (Kevin Isola) who have designs on his work; and Eric returns to the home where he was raised in Brooklyn.
The cast of the 2005 Broadway staging largely mirrors the company that appeared in the co-production's world premiere at South Coast Rep in fall 2004. Daniel Sullivan directs. As previously reported, Polly Draper replaces Dana Reeve, who withdrew for personal reasons; she is the widow of Christopher Reeve.
Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies (Dinner With Friends, Collected Stories) and Tony Award-winner Daniel Sullivan (Proof) most recently collaborated on Manhattan Theatre Club's revival of Sight Unseen in spring 2004.
The creative team for Brooklyn Boy includes Ralph Funicello (sets), Jess Goldstein (costumes), Chris Parry (lighting) and Michael Roth (music and sound).
Margulies is a Brooklyn boy himself. He was born there in 1954. His father worked in a wallpaper shop. The playwright's works include the Pulitzer-winner, Dinner With Friends, as well as What's Wrong With This Picture?, Found a Peanut, The Model Apartment, God of Vengeance, Collected Stories and The Loman Family Picnic, among others.
The Biltmore Theatre is at 261 W. 47th Street.
Tickets are $26-$79 and are available by calling TeleCharge.com at (212) 239-6200 or at the Biltmore Theatre box office.
For more information, visit www.manhattantheatreclub.com.
Brooklyn Boy was commissioned by South Coast Repertory.